In the midst of Sara Fuller becoming the first woman to take the field in a power conference football game, suiting up as a kicker for the Vanderbilt Commodores this past weekend, we learned something about UCF Knights and USWNT legend Michelle Akers: She tried out to do the exact same thing for the Dallas Cowboys in 1989.
Akers tweeted about it last year:
Haha! I kicked 52 yarders consistently (w/o a tee) when I tried out for an agent (Dallas Cowboys) in 89-90. Easy peesy. But no pads or massive BEAST lineman in front trying to kill me. Wanted to pursue soccer vs NFL career. Could’ve been wrong⚽️ https://t.co/JJQa2n9a8A— Michelle Akers (@MichelleAkers10) January 25, 2019
More recently, in an interview with Christian Polanco and Alexis Guerreros of “The Cooligans,” a show produced by fuboTV, Akers said she nearly tried out for the Dallas Cowboys before the 1989 season.
Watch a clip of the interview here:
There’s more to it.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, Jim Masson, a chiropractor in Ft. Worth, had the idea that a woman could play in the NFL, but only as a kicker. He contacted his friend and TCU head soccer coach Dave Robinson, who told him the only person in college who could do it was a senior at the University of Central Florida named Michelle Akers. So Masson called her up.
“[He] was like, ‘Hey, I think a girl could kick in the NFL,’ and I was like, ‘Of course they could,’” Akers said in the interview.
“So I went out to Texas and was kicking field goals,” Akers said. “They were so easy.”
According to the Times, Akers worked out in Fort Worth with ex-TCU kicker Bill Adams, and was making field goals from 50+ with regulation NFL balls and no tee.
Akers said she could hit from as long as 52 yards, and Masson was so intrigued that he sent her to a kicking camp in California with the Cowboys’ kicking coach, former NFL kicker Ben Agajanian. On a bad high school field, Akers was consistent from as long as 45, and Agajanian said he thought she would be just fine kicking off AstroTurf, which was the playing surface in Texas Stadium, the home of the Cowboys at the time.
Still, Agajanian said she would need work. “But,” he told the Times, “I’m not saying she can’t develop. Starting to kick just a couple of months ago by herself and doing this well, I’d say she could improve. I’d say she has a chance to kick in the NFL.”
Akers said Agajanian told her he could get her into training camp with the Cowboys if she wanted to, but Akers said she wanted to be a soccer player instead, and that was that.
At the time, Dallas had just fired Tom Landry and installed eventual two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Jimmy Johnson. Famously, the Cowboys would go 1-15 in 1989, and their two kickers that season, Roger Ruzek and Luis Zendejas, were a combined 10-for-20, including a horrendous 7-for-17 from 30 yards or longer.
Dallas would have kicking problems well into its 1990s dynasty, however, going through the inconsistent Ken Willis in 1990 and 1991, and Lin Elliott in 1992, before finally settling on reliable veteran Eddie Murray in 1993.
Meanwhile, Akers went on to her legendary national team career.
As far as her college years, we went back through the archives and could not find any evidence that Akers tried out for UCF’s football team in her time in Orlando, although that would have also been cool.
Regarding whether a woman could do it now, Akers said at the end of the interview, “I definitely think a female can do it. It’s just the side part about, ‘What if she takes a hit? She’s gonna be a goner.’”
At the time, Akers shared those same concerns. She was 5-foot-10 and 140 pounds — hardly any smaller than kickers of the time. But as she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about possibly getting hit by the Mike Singletarys and Lawrence Taylors of the world, “It scares me, but it also excites me because I’m real competitive.
“I’m not doing this for the press. This is just another challenge that’s been put in front of me.’’
Challenges, after all, are something Michelle Akers knows a lot about. We spoke with her about her incredible career this past summer: