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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | September 17, 2019

How Morgan Smith became the first woman in Northeast-10 history to score a point in DII football

Watch Morgan Smith become the first NE10 woman to kick an extra point

There was Northeast-10 football history made in Rindge, New Hampshire, in Week 2 of the DII football season.

Placekicker Morgan Smith had three pivotal extra points in Franklin Pierce’s 29-27 victory over Curry College to become the first woman to score in an NE10 football game, which also was Franklin Pierce’s first win as an official DII football program.

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It's believed that Smith is the second woman to score a point in a DII football game. Tonya Butler of West Alabama was the first to achieve the feat — and reportedly in all of college football history — kicking a field goal on Sept. 13, 2003, nearly 16 years to the day of Smith's 3-for-3 PAT performance on Saturday. 

We caught up with Smith to learn about her path to the Franklin Pierce Ravens and what's on the horizon for her.

Smith's DII football career started on the soccer pitch

Smith grew up in South Glens Falls, New York, where she began to play soccer year-round in the fourth grade. She was pretty darn good at it too, catching the eyes of the Franklin Pierce women's soccer team as early as her junior year in high school.

But it's also where she developed her love for football.

"I was always friends with the football players in high school," Smith told NCAA.com. "We were messing around in the summer before my senior year and I kicked a field goal. They told me I should try out for the football team. So, I built up the courage and decided to try out and wound up playing soccer and football my senior year."

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Smith loved the experience, but in her heart, she knew her path was on the pitch. She headed to Franklin Pierce as a member of the 2018 women's soccer team, where she appeared in just one game as a reserve. 

That's when she realized something was missing. 

"I missed football a lot," Smith said. "When I spoke to some of the football guys, they said I should try out, that they didn't have a set kicker yet. So, I decided in the spring that I would go and ask head coach [Russell] Gaskamp to give me a shot. He brought me down to the field, had me kick, and told me I had a spot in the fall."

The soccer experiment is now a thing of the past as Smith is a full-time member of the Ravens' football team. Now that she's making history on the gridiron, is she yearning to return to the pitch? 

"I miss it a little bit, but I think my heart is set on football."

A historic win in DII football for Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce transitioned its Sprint Football team to an official DII program during the 2018 season. The Ravens became official members of the Northeast-10 in football for the 2019 season and opened at home against Division III Wesley, a game they lost 69-0. Smith would have to wait for that debut.

In Game 2, Frankin Pierce finally got on the board. After the Ravens were blanked in the first quarter, Chazz Bryant ran it in from nine yards out. Gaskamp opted to go for the two-point conversion, putting Smith's debut on hold even longer. Finally, in the waning seconds of the first half, Franklin Pierce completed its first touchdown pass in program history. 

It was Smith's turn.

"I was super excited when we got the first touchdown and the fake play for a two-point conversion," Smith said. "My first actual PAT I was a little bit nervous, I wanted to make sure I did my part for the team. But I knew everyone else on the field was going to do their job 100 percent right, so I was very confident I'd be able to score."

Smith kicked the point-after attempt through the uprights and was successful twice more. Franklin Pierce's thrilling victory was clinched in the final minute of play at the goal line. 

"It was amazing," Smith said. "We have a lot to work on still obviously, but we executed well, they took criticism well. It was a good experience for everyone. After that first game we really needed to pull out a win and I'm glad that we did.

"We need to be all on the same page, all willing to put in 100 percent. Most of the guys are pretty devoted to the team so we can work on the small things that will inevitably help us win in the end."

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Morgan Smith: A role model and trailblazer for women athletes

Franklin Pierce Athletics Morgan Smith celebrates after a PAT in Franklin Pierce's first-ever DII football victory. Morgan Smith celebrates after a PAT in Franklin Pierce's first-ever DII football victory (photo credit: Meg Stokes).

When she wasn't winning World Cups with the U.S women's national soccer team, Carli Lloyd made waves this summer booting 55-yard field goals at Philadelphia Eagles training camp. Athletes like Lloyd have influenced Smith's path to the football field where she will, in turn, be a role model to young players in the future.

"I saw other females that could do stuff like that," Smith said. "I saw a girl that could participate in a men's sport, and I was like, 'If she could do it, then I could do it.'"

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That doesn't mean it's been easy, no matter how simple Smith may make it look. She'll have plenty eyes on her all the time, but no one is tougher on Smith than herself.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Smith said. "Being just a kicker, I feel like I don't do quite as much as everyone else. I have enormous respect for the rest of the guys, so I put this pressure on myself to do better so that I do my job. I've never felt pressure from the other guys, they all believe in me 100 percent."

Smith is a trailblazer in a sport not many women have played before. 

"I thought about it a little bit, but I try not to boost my own ego or anything," Smith said. "I hope what I'm doing inspires other girls to join football. It's an amazing sport and it's a good experience. If more girls did it, it would make a better environment for football."

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So, does Smith hope that one day she may be kicking on NFL fields?

"I mean, that's always the dream," Smith said. "But as of right now, I'm just focusing on Franklin Pierce and trying to help this team."

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