Haley Van Voorhis turns childhood love of football into college success

By Samuel Teets

On Saturday, Sept. 23, Shenandoah University junior safety Haley Van Voorhis became the first woman who wasn’t a kicker to play in an NCAA football game. Van Voorhis recorded a quarterback hit on a third and long play to help Shenandoah’s defense get off the field in the first quarter of a 48-7 win against Juniata.

With football becoming a global sport and positioned to showcase a version of itself on the Olympic stage in 2028, accomplishments like Van Voorhis’ are becoming increasingly important to achieve Football For All® and equality in sport.

However, if you only saw the news story briefly tick across the bottom of your screen or appear in the top headlines section of your favorite sports website, you missed out on the years of devotion to the game and tireless training it took Van Voorhis to get a small taste of her goal. She wants to play more, and she’s willing to put in the work to make it happen.

Van Voorhis grew up a Washington fan, devoting Sunday afternoons to watching her favorite team and attending the occasional NFL game with her family. She credits this early exposure to the game with jump starting her interest in the sport.

“I think that it really helped me build an understanding of the game and find my love for football even though I wasn’t playing,” Van Voorhis said in an interview with USA Football. “I would never have picked up a football if I didn’t see it on TV, so it definitely propelled my love for the sport.”

Her fandom quickly turned into a desire to get in on the action.

“The first time I saw it on TV, I knew I wanted to play,” she said. “I would watch the game, and I’d get so excited because back then Washington was a pretty good team. It was just exciting to see, and I knew it was something I wanted to play.”

Van Voorhis started her journey playing fifth grade flag football as the only girl on her coed team. She transitioned to tackle in sixth grade, following the pattern of many eager athletes who transition from the non-contact game-type to full tackle.

Shortly before becoming the first girl to play high school football at Christchurch School, Van Voorhis attended USA Football’s 2017 Middle School Bowl Games and later went to a USA Football middle school training camp that same year. She credits camps and events like USA Football’s for helping her prepare for the high school game.

Read the full article at USA Football.