A kicker with a ponytail
A tomboy at heart with her hair up, Spotsylvania High School graduate Lauren Luttrell has her sights set on becoming a kicker for the Virginia Tech Hokies and, if that materializes, the first woman to join the college football team. . Luttrell played soccer for the Spotsy Knights, but her passion for sports and athletic prowess was becoming a kicker for a varsity soccer team.
Last summer, before she came to the Virginia Tech campus as a freshman, Luttrell’s supervisor at Famous Dave’s BBQ, David Turner, was intrigued by her wish and encouraged her to try out for the Virginia Tech team. Luttrell thought that He was insane but Turner insisted and before he knew it Luttrell got in touch with the Hokies football department and they invited him to try.
Luttrell showed up at Lane Stadium during his first week of school and saw head coach Frank Beamer standing on the field. There were a handful of kickers, a few punters, and a few long snapper in the test. She was the only one with a ponytail, but once she started kicking, her nervousness subsided and she fit in perfectly. He only failed once during training. Although Beamer was impressed, he did not have a place for Luttrell and asked him to try again in the spring.
That winter, training for a second chance, Luttrell worked diligently with his kicking coach, Dave DeArmas, who attended training camps with the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers after playing college football at the University of Connecticut. . Aside from practice and technique, DeArmas taught him things like how the wind at the bottom of a two- or three-tier stadium differs from the wind blowing over the flagpoles above the stadium. He took pictures of her form and showed her what needed to be fixed.
Luttrell is fairly comfortable kicking field goals within 42 yards, but he’s unfamiliar with a helmet and pads, not to mention the pressure of a winning kick in a stadium full of exuberant fans. Gaining experience in the true atmosphere comes with time invested.
Clearly, the Hokies needed a kicker. Redshirt sophomore Cody Journell was suspended indefinitely after being arrested for burglary and was charged with a Class 2 felony due to the alleged use of a dangerous weapon. Before the Hokies’ Orange Bowl game against Michigan, senior kicker Tyler Weiss, a Courtland High School graduate, was sent home for missing curfew.
As a walker and one of ten kickers, Luttrell’s next test happened on March 31. He made all four field goal attempts in the 20 to 25 yard range kicking his way into the second round at the 35 yard range making three of four attempts with one that fell below the crossbar and therefore did not advance to the third round. Impressed with his ability, coach Frank Beamer thanked him for trying, encouraged him to keep trying, and explained that he just didn’t have the power to make the cut. A despondent Luttrell vowed to keep kicking his target; a goal to nail between two studs, particularly at Lane Stadium at Virginia Tech, as a kicker for the Hokies.
If Luttrell had been part of the team, the media frenzy would begin. How could a young woman, with her hair tied back in a ponytail, maintain and perform at the expected level in a “male” sport? Luttrell’s kicks on the field would definitely draw attention to the team both favorably by some and undoubtedly mocked by others. Although the social sacrifices and other possible ramifications for Luttrell to participate in a male-dominated sport are many; the benefits, if played well, can be relatively rewarding.