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A Kicker With a Ponytail
A tomboy at heart with her hair pulled back, Spotsylvania High School graduate Lauren Luttrell has her sights set on becoming a kicker for the Virginia Tech Hokies and, if it comes to fruition, the first woman to join the football team. university. Luttrell played football for the Spotsy Knights, but it was her passion for sports and athletic ability to become a kicker for a college football team.
Last summer, before arriving on the Virginia Tech campus as a freshman, Luttrell’s supervisor at Famous Dave’s BBQ, David Turner, was intrigued by her desire and encouraged her to try the Virginia Tech team as a walk-on. Luttrell thought he was crazy but Turner persisted and before you know it Luttrell contacted the Hokies football department and had been asked to try out.
Luttrell showed up at Lane Stadium in her first week of classes and saw head coach Frank Beamer standing on the pitch. There were a handful of kickers, a few punters and a few long snappers on trial. She was the only one with a ponytail, but once she started kicking her nervousness subsided and she adapted very well. She only missed once during practice. Although Beamer was impressed, he had no room 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 Buccaneers. Bay after playing college football at the University of Connecticut. Besides practice and technique, DeArmas taught him things like the difference between the wind at the bottom of a two- or three-tier stadium and the wind blowing at the top of the flag poles above the stadium. He took pictures of her form and showed her what needed to be fixed.
Luttrell is comfortable enough hitting field goals from under 42 yards but isn’t used to wearing a helmet and pads, let alone the pressure of a game-winning kick in a packed stadium exuberant fans. Gaining experience in the real atmosphere comes with time invested.
Obviously, the Hokies needed a kick. Second redshirt student Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely after being arrested for breaking and entering and has been charged with a Class 2 felony over the alleged use of a dangerous weapon. Prior to the Hokies’ Orange Bowl game against Michigan, senior kicker Tyler Weiss, a graduate of Courtland High School, was sent home for missing curfew.
As a walk-on and one of ten kickers, Luttrell’s next try came on March 31. She made all four field goal attempts in the 20-25 yard range, working her way to the second round in the 35 yard range, making three out of four attempts with one short of the crossbar and so do not go to the third round. Impressed with her abilities, trainer Frank Beamer thanked her for trying, encouraged her to keep trying, and explained that she just didn’t have the power to pull it off. A despondent Luttrell vowed to keep hitting her goal; a goal to pin him between two uprights, especially at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium, as a kicker for the Hokies.
If Luttrell had made the team, the media frenzy would have started. How could a young woman with her hair pulled back in a ponytail maintain herself and perform at an expected level in a “man’s” sport? Luttrell’s kicks on the pitch would certainly draw attention to the team both favorably by some and definitely by others. Although the social sacrifices and other possible ramifications of Luttrell’s participation in a male-dominated sport are many; the perks, if played well, can be relatively rewarding.
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