A tomboy at heart with hair pulled back, Lauren Luttrell, a graduate of Spotsylvania High School, has her sights set on becoming a kicker for the Virginia Tech Hokies and if that comes to fruition, the first female to join the college football team. Luttrell played soccer for the Spotsy Knights but it was her passion for sports and athletic ability to become a kicker for a collegiate football team.
Last summer before arriving on campus at Virginia Tech as a freshman, Luttrell’s supervisor at Famous Dave’s BBQ, David Turner, was intrigued by her desire and encouraged her to try out for Virginia Tech’s team as a walk-on. Luttrell thought he was crazy but Turner persisted and before you knew it, Luttrell contacted the Hokies’ football department and had been invited to try out.
Luttrell showed up at Lane Stadium during her first week of classes and saw head coach Frank Beamer standing on the field. There were a handful of kickers, a few punters and a few long snappers at the tryout. She was the only one with a ponytail but once she started kicking, her nervousness diminished and she fit in just fine. She missed only once during the workout. While Beamer was impressed, he did not have a spot for Luttrell and asked her to try again in the spring.
That winter, training for a second chance, Luttrell worked diligently with her 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 her things like how the wind at the bottom of a two or three-tiered stadium differs from the wind blowing atop the flag poles above the stadium. He took pictures of her form and showed her what needed to be fixed.
Luttrell is quite comfortable kicking field goals within 42 yards but is not familiar suited up with a helmet and pads, not to mention the pressure of a game winning kick in a stadium packed with 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 breaking and entering and was charged with a Class 2 felony due to 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 tryout occurred March 31st. She made all four field goal attempts in the 20 to 25 yard range kicking her way to the second round in the 35 yard range making three out of four attempts with one falling short of the crossbar and therefore not advancing to the third round. Impressed with her ability, Coach Frank Beamer thanked her for trying out, offered encouragement to keep trying and explained that she just didn’t have the power required to make the cut. A disheartened Luttrell vowed to keep kicking away at her goal; a goal to nail it between two uprights, particularly in Lane Stadium at Virginia Tech, as the Hokies’ kicker.
Had Luttrell made the team, the media frenzy would begin. How could a young woman, hair pulled back in a ponytail, maintain and perform at a level expected in a “man’s” sport? Luttrell’s kicks on the field would definitely draw attention to the team both favorably from some and undoubtedly gibe like by others. Although the social sacrifices and other possible ramifications to Luttrell taking part in a male dominated sport are many; the benefits, if played well, can be relatively rewarding.