Meet April Goss, Kent State’s first female football player

Senior kicker April Goss practiced kicking for the Golden Flashes on Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

Matt Lofgren

Just outside head coach Darrell Hazell’s office one afternoon, a young woman was sitting outside the door filling out paperwork.

The student wasn’t there looking for ticket information or asking to be a student trainer, but Hazell didn’t know that. After meeting freshman April Goss, it took Hazell a few moments to realize she was completing a walk-on form.

With her ponytail draped over the back of her No. 91 jersey and her helmet strapped tight, Goss is doing something no female has ever done at Kent State.

Defying the trend that only males can play the vicious contact sport of football, Goss is taking her career as a high school kicker to the Division I stage.

“This is a first for me,” Hazell said. “I have never in my 27 years of coaching, I have never had a female tryout. She has done a great job. I’m more proud of our guys, about how they’re treating her about the whole thing.”

Hazell should be proud of his players and their respectful treatment of Goss, not just as a female, but as their teammate. Considering what happened at Colorado University back in 1999, players with less respect could have made things worse.

In Boulder, female kicker Katie Hnida for the Buffalos was verbally abused, molested and eventually raped. All of the incidents were caused by her teammates.

“At first when I heard about it, I was like ‘whoa,’” Goss said. “But that’s just something that, just because it happened to one person, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to everyone. The thing that I took away from it most was that Katie Hnida hit an obstacle and she over came it. Where most people, they didn’t and you’re going to hit obstacles, you’re going to hit brick walls in your path, but it’s not whether they knock you down; it’s whether or not you get back up.”

Goss has experienced the opposite of that horrific ordeal. All of her teammates have been great to her, especially senior kicker Freddy Cortez, Goss said.

“He has been great,” Goss said. “He’s been a really good mentor. I mean, he’s been helping me with my kicks and my fundamentals and my technique and he’s been pushing me. But also, he jokes around with me. He lightens the mood when I get down on myself. He has truly been great.”

Whether she knows it or not, Goss has already made a difference in her own community. Goss’ high school football coach Dave Vestal at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa. said a female freshman at the school is trying to follow in her foot steps.

“April was the first female kicker we have had in our football program,” Vestal said via email. “We do have another female kicker who is a freshman and is interested in playing. Who knows, maybe April inspired her.”

Goss isn’t doing this ‘just for kicks.’ Showing off accuracy and range, Goss kicked a 26-yard field goal during the jersey scrimmage.

For a person her size, dealing with players the size of Division I athletes would be intimidating, but Hazell has noticed that nothing has fazed her in this process.

“She’s pretty calm,” Hazell said. “That’s a hard situation to be put in and she’s been pretty calm and she’s gotten better. Freddy’s done a great job of working with her.”

Her calm and driven character dates back to her days in high school.

“April has outstanding character and she is a very good student,” Vestal said. “She is one of the nicest people I have every met; but she is very competitive. She is as good as they come.”

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected], or on Twitter at @MLofgrenDKS.