JSU alumna Ashley Cockrell gives keynote speech to kick off Women’s History Month

Ashley Cockrell, pictured, gave the keynote speech for Women's History Month at JSU on Tuesday. Cockrell was the first woman to score a point in a Division I college football game. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)Ashley Cockrell, pictured, gave the keynote speech for Women's History Month at JSU on Tuesday. Cockrell was the first woman to score a point in a Division I college football game. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Miranda Prescott, News Editor

Jacksonville State University kicked off the festivities for Women’s History Month with a keynote speech on Tuesday from Ashley Martin Cockrell, a 2003 alumna of JSU who became the first woman in NCAA history to score a point in a Division I college football game.

Cockrell played as the backup kicker for the university her junior year of college, and said it was a “team effort” to get her where she was on the field. 

“When I did that, it didn’t seem like a big deal to me,” said Cockrell. “It was everybody that was kinda on the outside that thought that it was different and outside the norms. I cry every time I watch that video of my kick.”

Cockrell also said that she only agreed to be the backup kicker for the football team because she received approval from the rest of the team first. 

“I never had the thought of, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be the first female to do this so that I can make history and pave the way for everybody else behind me,’” she said. “The team and I learned balance. They protected me on and off the field.”

Cockrell also told the story about how ESPN sent two reporters to follow her around campus for three days, to which she later learned that they had been sent down to try and find “the controversy” in her story.

“They sent them down here to find the controversy in my story, but they said there wasn’t any,” Cockrell said. “I really loved that, and I saw that as a huge testament to our community here at JSU and who we are.”

During her time as a student, Cockrell was a starting forward for the women’s soccer team and also served as a volunteer firefighter for the Jacksonville Fire Department in her spare time. 

Cockrell also discussed Sarah Fuller, who recently became the first woman to score in a football game for Power Five SEC Division I School at Vanderbilt University. Cockrell said she was called by The Boston Globe to discuss the kick Fuller made and the controversy behind it.

“Her main subject was the controversy surrounding Sarah Fuller, which was interesting because for me, there wasn’t any controversy,” she explained. “But we now have keyboard warriors who can have opinions about her. I told the writer that what makes me sad is that she is reading all of these things and taking away from the value of that moment.”

“My mom started me in dance, and the problem was I was just a little different,” she said. “Shortly after my first dance photo was taken, my teacher told my mom that I might be a better fit for some outdoor activities.”

Cockrell’s parents introduced her to soccer, of which she said a girl’s league didn’t exist until Cockrell turned 10. She went on to play five sports in high school, where she also kicked her junior year for the football team. 

Cockrell currently serves as the Dean of Students at Hillcrest Elementary in Lake Wells, Fla. However, she mentioned that she is looking into a career change into law enforcement.

“My goal is to continue to work with at risk kids,” she said. “Once they leave my elementary school, I kinda lose touch with them, and they continue to have some problems. I’d like to put myself in a position where I can stay in their lives a little bit longer than I am now.”

Cockrell also has three children of her own and hopes she is raising them to value and respect people.

“I hope that I am raising children that value the potential people have and that people’s value in general regardless of their gender, race, social status and job,” she said. “There’s so much more to a person’s story.”

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