It seemed easy to Ashley Martin, a placekicker for Jacksonville State University in Alabama. On Aug. 30, early in the game against Cumberland University, she trotted onto the field with her ponytail swaying beneath her helmet to attempt the extra point after a touchdown. As the ball soared through the uprights, ecstatic fans leaped to their feet in an ovation. In the locker room later, as her teammates chanted her name, "Coach," she says, "handed me the game ball."
A memento she richly deserved. By kicking three extra points in the 72-10 rout, Martin made history as the first (and still only) woman to play—let alone score—in a Division I NCAA football game. Martin-mania followed for the 20-year-old backup kicker and psychology major. She appeared on Good Morning America and flew to New York City to reenact her kick on Columbus Avenue for TV's Regis and Kelly. "I was nervous," she says. "I just told myself to have a good time." (By the way, she made that kick too.)
The middle child of Wayne, 58, and Stacy, 51 (he's a maintenance supervisor and she's a flight attendant, both for Delta Air Lines), Martin grew up in Sharpsburg, Ga., and developed into a two-sport threat. In fact she came to Jacksonville on a soccer scholarship. Football coach Jack Crowe invited her to try out after one of his assistants saw the 5'10", 155-lb. midfielder in a game. Not only have teammates accepted Martin ("She's got a strong leg," says starting kicker Steven Lee), they're protective. "She's got 10 big brothers out there," says Crowe. Besides, says boyfriend Kirby Smart, 25, a football coach at Valdosta (Ga.) State University, "she's been through more contact in soccer than she ever will in football."
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