Just Another Face in the
Coach Tim Doup congratulates Gaither
after scoring her first collegiate
When did you start kicking a football? How did the
idea even come about? How do the guys on the team
treat you? Where do you get dressed in the locker
These are just a few of the questions that Otterbein
University sophomore Alana Gaither has been asked
since 2008, when she first began competing as a
place-kicker for the Akron Firestone High School
football team. If you have a question for Gaither,
chances are that she’s already weighed in on the
topic, maintaining a smile the entire time.
Gaither played three varsity seasons for Firestone
from 2008-10, kicking field goals and extra points
while the team’s second kicker handled the kickoff
and punting duties. Her senior season was
highlighted by a 43-yard field goal, and though no
official records are kept, it is believed to be a
national record for a female.
Gaither, who naturally received local attention and
exposure for performing in a male-dominated sport,
ultimately landed at Otterbein and continued to
pursue a goal of kicking at the collegiate level.
“When I first arrived, I think some people initially
heard about my plan and maybe thought I didn’t know
what I was getting myself into,” the 5-5, 128-pound
Gaither said. “The team immediately embraced me and
it’s been a regular situation ever since. I
understand that it’s unusual for others and new to
the people of Otterbein or the Westerville
community. It’s just not new to me.”
“We didn’t miss a beat when she arrived,” senior
captain Chad Pepper said. “The female aspect has no
influence on our thoughts, especially since her
skills set her apart from any stereotype. We’ve
looked at Alana as nothing else but a football
player from day one because she was never doing this
for a wrong reason.”
A preseason ankle injury unfortunately ended her
freshman campaign, but Gaither is now back on the
field and locked in a battle with classmate Nick
Ganus for the starting job. Ganus was the preferred
kicker during the team’s season-opening win over
Gallaudet University due to his kick trajectory,
helping avoid the rush of a 6-6 defensive lineman
for the Bison who entered the game with four blocks
to his credit.
However, Gaither registered her first appearance in
Saturday’s 54-10 victory at Wilmington College,
making 3 of 4 extra-point attempts to become the
first female in Otterbein’s 122-year football
history to record a point.
“I have a female kicker… so what?” head coach Tim
Doup said. “She is a calm, level-headed, consistent
kicker. I think people are assuming that we’re only
going to insert her when the game is out of hand,
but that’s not the case at all.”
Despite making three extra points, the fact remains
that Gaither did miss her first attempt, a moment
that she was not overly pleased with.
“No excuses on that one, I just completely shanked
it,” Gaither said with a slight laugh. “The snap and
hold were perfect, I just missed it. I was
embarrassed, but I walked off the field and was
overwhelmed with support from everyone. We’re all so
supportive of one another, and that camaraderie is a
special feeling that you can’t really get unless you
play college athletics.”
Having finally played in her first game, Gaither
hopes fans and followers will soon think nothing out
of the ordinary when she trots out onto the field.
After all, she is first to highlight some of her
notable teammates, including Ganus, who converted
the same amount of kicks against Wilmington… yet
nobody makes mention.
"We are off to a great start and there is
such a good vibe within the team. I don't
think what I'm doing needs to get in the way
- Alana Gaither
“The last thing I want is to cause a distraction or
too much attention,” Gaither said. “We’re off to a
great start and there is such a good vibe within the
team. Everyone is a lot closer this season, so I
don’t think what I’m doing needs to get in the way
While the outside public may want to hoot and
holler, those that feel most comfortable are the
players and coaches within the locker room.
“It’s understandable that people want to recognize
her because of the unique situation, but we’re all
very aware of the subject and it’s never caused
commotion,” Doup said. “Alana has handled the
situation better than anyone could ask of her. She
understands the concept of a team effort and doesn’t
think it’s fair that everyone wants to spotlight her
above others. It’s never been just about her.”
Adding another dimension to the equation is
Gaither’s other sport. That’s correct. Not only is
she a multi-sport athlete, but a multi-sport athlete
within the same season. In addition to football, you
will also find Gaither on the roster for women’s
soccer, a sport that she has played competitively
since the third grade. She has appeared in three
matches so far this fall, recording an assist during
a recent victory over Hiram College.
“I have so much respect and appreciation for Brandon
(Koons) and the women’s soccer girls for allowing me
to do this,” said Gaither, who gives football
priority on Saturdays when the two schedules
overlap. “I feel that I’m just as close with them as
I am with the football guys. I’m always leaving
early or arriving late to practices, so I can’t
thank each team enough for being understanding.”
“Being a multi-sport athlete is tough at any level,
let alone playing two in one season,” said Pepper,
who is most proud of Gaither for fighting back from
the ankle injury. “I think it’s all a credit to her
determination and athletic ability, because she’s a
competitor and knows what she wants to do. Alana
never seems to miss a beat and I’ve never witnessed
her letting any conflict get in the way.”
Anyone taking notice of Gaither’s situation should
be sure to note the manner in which she handles it.
“My number one rule is that if anyone wants to take
a picture or do an on-camera interview, there need
to be teammates with or behind me,” she explained.
“I will never pose for a picture by myself.”
“Nobody thinks twice that I’m a female anymore,”
Gaither added. “I’ll probably look back someday and
realize how unique it was, but right now it’s about
me doing my job and contributing the best I can. I’m
a kicker for the Otterbein football team and I
always keep my focus on that.”
A Public Relations major, Gaither hopes to one day
work for a professional sports organization and
dreams of finding a summer internship with the
Cleveland Browns. In the meantime, she will continue
to go about her day-to-day activities as a football
place-kicker, soccer forward, and above all else, a
regular college student.
So if you become wide-eyed the next time you see her
head onto the football field, just know that Alana
Gaither, her teammates, and the Cardinal coaching
staff think little of it.
Ponytail aside, Alana Gaither is a typical teammate
Updated: 09/25/12 8:26pm
For more than 100 years, football has always seemed to be a man’s game.
But Otterbein football player Alana Gaither wanted to change that
The sophomore public relations major aspired to go to a bigger
university to play soccer, but when the opportunity arose to play
both soccer and football at Otterbein, Gaither considered the
decision a no-brainer.
Gaither said she joined the football team because she has a love
and passion for the game.
“When I first arrived at Otterbein, a lot of people were shocked
or didn’t agree that a girl should be on the field, but I had a
passion for the sport and I wasn’t going to let someone’s opinions
get in the way,” Gaither said. “The team and the coaches supported
me no matter what everyone else thought.”
Gaither said she is grateful for how accepting the team has been
to her these past two years.
“They were my motivation and backbone last year when I got
injured. If it wasn’t for their support during rehab, I don’t think
I would have had the motivation to get where I am today. They are
all like my big brothers, and I look up to them more than they will
Having a female on the team might be a shock to some, but for the
players, it just feels natural.
“She just feels like part of the team,” senior offensive lineman
Jon Busby said. “We don’t even notice that she is a female. We just
notice her as a strong player. She definitely brings consistency to
Gaither and sophomore Nick Ganus, the two strongest kickers on
the team, try to challenge each other as well as help each other.
Neither thinks they battle for the position.
“I think the competition between Nick and I help make us stronger
kickers,” Gaither said. “We help each other out no matter what the
circumstance may be.”
“We both kind of do our own thing,” Ganus said. “We have
completely different kicking styles, but we know when the other is
doing something wrong. When she is struggling with the ball height,
I try to help her out and do a drill with her, where she tries to
kick my hand to follow through.”
Gaither has mixed feelings about the attention she has been
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to do the sports I love,
but I feel so silly getting attention for being a girl on the
football team when I’m surrounded by players like Trey Fairchild,”
Fairchild, a senior wide receiver and third-year letterman, was
named a second-team preseason All-American by D3football.com.
The football team will put its undefeated record on the line next
Saturday when it travels to Berea, Ohio, to take on Baldwin Wallace
“Whenever I get the opportunity to kick, it’s all thanks to the
team,” Gaither said. “They are the ones taking the ball down the
field and putting in the sweat and blood. The offensive line and my
holder, sophomore quarterback Brick Davis, are so impressive that I
owe them so much for the work that they put in.”
Published September 25, 2012 in
Ohio College Football Insider
By Mark Znidar
Men should not feel threatened when Alana Gaither, with her long blond
hair flowing from underneath her helmet, joins the huddle before attempting
an extra point or field goal for Otterbein.
Gaither is not trying to crash the boys’ party. All she wants to do is
kick the football through the uprights.
In the first place, the men did ask her to come out for the team at Akron
Firestone High School and Otterbein.
“The varsity kicker quit the football team to play soccer when I was a
freshman in high school, and the coach asked players from both soccer teams
if they would give it a try,” Gaither said of Tim Flossie, who won two state
championships with Akron Buchtel and has been a coach for 32 years. “He
really needed help, so I gave it a try.”
Gaither converted 6 of 7 field-goal attempts and 45 of 47 extra-point
attempts. Her longest field goal was 43 yards. She missed from 48 yards.
It appeared that Gaither would play only soccer at Otterbein until
another college offered her the opportunity to play soccer and try out for
the football team.
Cardinals women’s soccer coach Brandon Koons and former football coach
Joe Loth matched the offer of playing both sports.
Gaither didn’t play football or soccer as a freshman last year after
suffering a broken left ankle and a torn ligament in a soccer scrimmage.
This year, she kicked three of her four extra-point attempts in a 54-10
victory over Wilmington. Nick Ganus, a sophomore, is the starting
Gaither missed her first kick — “No excuses, I just shanked it,” she said
— but her teammates were very supportive.
“My teammates were telling me they knew I could make it,” Gaither said.
“They told me to stay strong.“I just want to focus on how great the coaches
and players have been to me. They are the reason I’m out there. I want to
help us win games. It was the same way in high school; I had great
teammates. My teammates here know I’m not out there for attention.”
First-year Otterbein coach Tim Doup said Gaither gets no special
“It’s special what Alana is doing, but you would never know it watching
her go about her business,” he said. “She is so team-oriented.”
Gaither said she doesn’t get nervous before a kick.
“I get more nervous when I’m speaking in public,” she said. “When you go
out there, you do the same things you do in practice. Kicking is a lot like
golfing. So much of it is technique.”
The hard part is balancing two sports. Gaither missed a soccer game on
Saturday to play in a football game against John Carroll. The Cardinals won
21-7, but she did not attempt a kick.
“(Koons) and the girls have been so good about this,” Gaither said. “I’m
coming late to soccer practice. They have been so encouraging. I thank