Shelby Osborne Becomes The First Female College Defensive Back, So Who Says Girls Can't Play Football?
This fall, Shelby Osbourne will burst through the glass ceiling as she runs across the gridiron at Campbellsville University. That's right, the NAIA Kentucky school has just signed the first ever female defensive back to play college football. How's that for breaking gender norms?
Osbourne, who hails from Indiana, phenomenally is relatively new to football, as she used her athletic prowess to excel in other sports for the first three year in high school. Osbourne played tennis, soccer, and ran track before deciding to pursue football. And while most women on the football field are cheerleaders, Osbourne wanted to do more than encourage the players — she wanted to be with them.
Few women have ever played on a collegiate football team, and most of them have served as kickers, providing the extra point or field goals for the team. But not for Osbourne — instead, she will play as a cornerback, a position played by such football greats as the Seahawks' Richard Sherman and the Patriots' Darrelle Revis. In this position, Osbourne will have to be able to defend against passes, read the quarterback, and be incredibly quick and agile.
For NAIA football teams, the average size of a cornerback runs about 5 feet 11 inches, and the average weight stands at 187 pounds. But even if Osbourne isn't the perfect size for a cornerback, what she lacks in stature she certainly more than makes up for in determination. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Osbourne told reporters that she would "wake up for 4 a.m. runs and stay at school until 8 p.m. working with the coaches." Osbourne maintained this routine for the entirety of her senior year, and decided that she "didn't want to give it up." She told the Star that she "was desperate to find anyone who would take [her] and continue on the thing that captured [her] heart."
While most schools turned her down as soon as they realized that "Shelby" was a girls' name, Osbourne captured the attention of Campbellsville University coach Perry Thomas.
Osbourne serves as an incredible example not only for other young women who are more than just fans of the sport, but also for young women everywhere who hope to pursue hobbies, interests, and careers in a typically male-dominated space. Her own inspiration was her mother, who was in a similar position when she told her own father she wanted to be a mechanic. Defying gender norms seems to run in the Osbourne family, and Shelby noted that other girls have come to her for advice about going against the grain.
Football season will certainly be a challenge for Osbourne, but then again, who isn't challenged by grueling workouts, a physical sport, and a tough athletic schedule on top of academics? Osbourne's coach, Lonnie Oldham, certainly believes in her abilities, and told the Star that Osbourne could certainly "get through the rigor of the running and conditioning part of it." As for taking hits and making tackles, Oldham was a bit more concerned, but said that she would have to make "business decisions" and be strategic about the game.
As for Osbourne, she's just thrilled to be part of a collegiate football team, and to be making history no less. The rising freshman told ESPN, "I could care less if I ever played a down, as long as I am a part of the team ... and continue with my love and passion for football....The team before myself."
We'll be cheering for you, Shelby.
Image: Shelby Osbourne/Twitter