Shelby Osborne: College football's first female defensive back


Note: this story concerns American football. It is not about the sport of football whose world championship is about to start in Rio de Janeiro. :o

Fewer than a dozen women have played college football on a men’s team. But this week, Osborne made history when she signed a letter of intent to play football with Campbellsville University in Kentucky – as a defensive back, the same position she played in high school.

Most women who have played college football have done so as kickers. Shelby Osborne’s parents supported her decision to play high school football, but hoped she’d try kicking in college.

Her high school coach was supportive of her playing in college but was realistic too. “You don’t want to shoot anybody’s dreams down but I had a conversation with Shelby and I said, ‘Shelby it’s going to be really tough for you to find anybody to take you,’” Lonnie Oldham told Louisville WAVE-TV Channel 3.

She wrote to every college in Kentucky, as well as schools in Florida and North Carolina. But the communication stopped as soon as coaches discovered “Shelby” was a girl’s name.

The athletic teams of Campbellsville University do not compete in the NCAA, but in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA.)

An additional surprise is that the university has been historically associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The mission statement and the core values of the school strongly emphasize its Christian purpose.

The school offers two sports which are officially co-ed: cheerleading and bass fishing.

Go Tigers!


I hope she gets a good education in college before she is seriously injured. Two dangers in playing football are more likely to occur in women because of physical differences. They are more likely have knee injuries because of their basic geometry. They are also more likely to suffer concussions because of weaker neck muscles.

Our local University of Saint Francis plays NAIA football at a high level, and it is a big jump from high school competition. Shelby will be in real danger on the field as a defensive back, especially if her tackling technique is less than perfect.


I have watched your football and am pretty sure she will be ok. She has guts and determination. Don’t your footballers wear helmets and massive padding over their entire bodies? Don’t you have different teams for offense defense and kicking with rests all the time?
I wouldn’t want her to play our codes, but I think the gentlemen on the other side will go easy on her, as long as she doesn’t touch them. Good on her. An example to all young women who love that one on one contact with men.


I found another story on Shelby Osborne that included a picture. She is a nice looking young woman and is certainly a dedicated athlete. However, she is 5’6" and weighs 140 pounds. As a cornerback she will be responsible to tackle wide receivers and running backs who can weigh in excess of 200 lbs with less body fat than women. Football coaches who want to win will run plays in her direction. I see no good coming from this.


A glance at the 2013 roster for the Campbellsville Tigers indicates that she is three inches shorter than the shortest team member. They did have a wide receiver, and also a kicker, who only weighed 160 pounds (although the others weighed significantly more.)

The BlackSportsOnline article quotes Osborne as saying she doesn’t care if she actually plays. She just wants to be on the team. She also said she doesn’t think she could tackle a player, but can prevent receptions. I have to wonder if her shortness and low weight would interfere with that. However, she may be fast, which would help.

I can’t imagine the coach would ever put her in a game if he didn’t think she could compete. I guess we will see. :shrug:


Good for her.

I do hope that she is OK though.


Good on her?

She is entering a sport, where she has to hope that the other team will take it easy on her? Sorry, but if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. :rolleyes:

Its interesting that she doesn’t care of she plays. College teams are only allowed so many players. I can’t believe that a team would take her instead of someone that could actually take the field. :shrug:


There is no way that a 5’ 6 140lb woman can bring down a running back or wide receiver in high school or college ball. This is just a way for the team to get a little bit of free publicity. There is no way she will ever see the field.


That’s my kind of sport! Man, I wish I went to college in the south…


The first time a wide receiver inadvertently touches her breast while trying to ward off a tackle the game will be stopped while both teams undergo sensitivity training.


It is the armor which contributes to the injuries. Because the player is armored he is able to run at full speed to deliver a hit rather then to ease up and grapple an opponent to the ground as in rugby. American football organizations are trying to modify their rules as the players grow ever larger and faster thus able to deliver ever more devastating hits which the armor no longer protects against. But besides flak vest introduced in the 70s along with more robust face guards and new helmet liners the protection is basically the same as it was 50 years ago meanwhile the average weight of the 'skill position players have gone up by 20lbs while the linemen have gone up by 50lbs.

As a defensive back she will have to deal with a 300lb man running full speed at her to knock her down so that his running back can run free.


How is she a good example if they men go easy on her? Luckily she is a defensive back, which generally only get involved in collisions they initiate. She can avoid contact if she wants to - most corner backs tend to, because they are undersized.


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