Goss’ historic kick proves extra special

- Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuer­bach USA TODAY Sports

April Goss doesn’t remember the kick itself.

She recalls being told the next one would be hers, then going to warm up on the sideline. She could hear her teammates calling her name. She’ll never forget the nerves and the way she had to tell herself to remain calm.

“You are like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really happening. This is going to happen,’ ” Goss, a Kent State senior, told USA TODAY Sports. “I just kind of remember lining up and then after that I just remember almost getting tackled by Trayion (Durham), our running back.”

Goss’ kick was good; the extra point counted. During the second quarter of Kent State’s win Saturday against Delaware State, Goss became the second woman in NCAA history to score in a Division I football game. Katie Hnida kicked two extra points for New Mexico in 2003.

Goss’ teammates mobbed her after the kick, quickly lifting her up and carrying her to the sideline, where she was buried in hugs.

“The week before, I promised that she would get in at some point this year, first and foremost because she deserves it, not just for the pub,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes said. “She’s a great student and a great ambassador for the program and for the university. I

didn’t have it planned that this would be the game, but once we went up 22-0, I told (assistant head coach) Shawn Clark, who’s in charge of our field goal unit, ‘If we score again, I’m going to get April in there.’ ”

To make the moment particular­ly poignant, Haynes initially sent first-string kicker Shane Hynes onto the field.

Haynes then called a timeout and put in Goss.

MAKING A CONNECTION Hnida watched the video clip, and a rush of joy overwhelme­d her. She was no longer in a club of one.

When she spoke with Goss after the game, she told her exactly that.

“‘April, it took me a couple of years for it to sink in that I became the first woman to score points in a Division I football game,’ ” Hnida said she told Goss. “‘Now, I’m thinking that there are two of us. There are two of us.’ ”

Hnida and Goss initially connected in 2012, with Hnida reaching out in a tweet — as many friendship­s begin in the digital age. They talked by phone for a few years, eventually meeting in person last year during Hnida’s trip to Kent State for a speaking engagement about sexual violence. Goss went and brought a bunch of teammates with her. Goss and Hnida had lunch the next day.

“It was practicall­y like meeting myself 12 years ago,” Hnida said. “We really just clicked instantly, knowing we had so many of the same experience­s and stories. We went over our kicking. I actually have these terrible pictures of me going over our kicking style with her, but I’m in a freaking dress. ... I just kicked off my boots, and that was that.

“It’s been a really special thing for me. I think part of it is because of who she is, and to find somebody who really loves kicking and loves the game as much as I do, I’m so thrilled that she got to see the field.”

Said Goss: “It is comforting to know that there is someone out there who has been in the exact same position before.”

It’s a bit surprising, Hnida said, that there aren’t more April Gosses out there. She said she thought “maybe once the door had been wedged open a bit” she’d see more women playing at all levels of college football. But considerin­g the time and energy the sport requires year-round, or the social media backlash, even after a summer celebratin­g female athletic achievemen­ts, and the general perception or stereotypi­cal problems women face in male-dominated worlds, perhaps it isn’t so surprising.

Goss and Hnida have talked endlessly about those topics. More often than not, they laugh when they’re sharing stories or discussing their passion for the sport. Hnida hopes Goss continues to enjoy her ride.

“Now, being so many years away from the game, I recognize the kind of crazy pressure I put on myself,” Hnida said. “If I have one regret from football, it’s not enjoying every moment as much as I could have because I was putting so much pressure on myself to perform and make every connection. I was so devastated to have a kick flop and felt like the entire world was over, that I let all female athletes down. Really, now that we’re far away from that, I can step back and say, ‘It’s not a huge deal.’

“The thing with April is, it just doesn’t matter what happens with her. Her legacy is already in place because of how she has conducted herself at Kent State. She’s amazing.”

CHANCE ENCOUNTER Four years ago, then-senior Kent State kicker Freddy Cortez noticed someone kicking at the end of the football field. He couldn’t see well and figured it was probably a local high school kid. He decided to head over to offer pointers.

Halfway across the field, Cortez noticed the kicker was female and said he thought, “This is awesome.” She told him she was from Pennsylvan­ia, had kicked a little in high school and was training. They worked together for about an hour.

“A week later, little did I know the girl that I was training, that I thought was just training for fun, had joined the team,” Cortez said, laughing. “I was in my head like, ‘Did I just train this girl to take my spot?’ ”

Cortez took Goss under his wing that season, working on her technique — she still sort of kicked the ball as if she were passing a soccer ball, off the side of her foot, and needed to improve her followthro­ugh — and getting to know her. He was impressed with how coachable she was and how hard she worked in the weight room.

“And, No. 1, how she accepted us,” Cortez said. “No. 2, how she was willing for us to accept her into our brotherhoo­d.”

Goss had decided to walk on before she arrived at Kent State. She’d done her research, trying to figure out who she’d need to meet with and when tryouts would take place. She met with then-Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, filled out walk-on paperwork and grew nervous as tryouts approached.

“It was a long process, looking back on it — how much time that I put in,” said Goss, who had played soccer before quitting to play football in high school instead. “It did seem like an impossible feat. Not only to get a tryout, but to make the team. It is almost weird to look back that far, four years ago, to this time and just remember where I was, and where I am now.”

Her current and former teammates feel the same way, and that’s why they’re so thrilled for her. She’s their sister. They’re alternatel­y protective of her and ready with some ribbing.

“Always watching out for her, taking care of her ... until it got to the point where she was just one of the guys,” Cortez said. “Then we cracked jokes on her. And she wasn’t afraid to throw us back a punchline.”

It’s wild, Cortez said, to think back to that fateful afternoon four years ago when he first met the woman who would add her name to college football history.

“I saw her. I trained her,” Cortez said. “The next thing you know, she’s part of the team. Then she became our sister and definitely deserved what happened to her and the opportunit­y she got Saturday.”

 ?? DAVID DERMER, AP ?? Teammates carry kicker April Goss off the field Saturday after she converted an extra-point attempt in Kent State’s win vs. Delaware State.
DAVID DERMER, AP Teammates carry kicker April Goss off the field Saturday after she converted an extra-point attempt in Kent State’s win vs. Delaware State.
Goss is a senior.
 ?? DAVID DERMER, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY ?? “She’s a great student and a great ambassador for the program and for the university,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes says of April Goss, above.
DAVID DERMER, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY “She’s a great student and a great ambassador for the program and for the university,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes says of April Goss, above.

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