Shelby Osborne Becomes College Football’s First Female Defensive Back

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She played soccer as a freshman. She played tennis as a sophomore. She ran cross country and track as a junior. But throughout high school, all Shelby Osborne really wanted to do was play football. With a ton of persistence, she managed to join the Jeffersonville High School football program in November 2012. Now the graduating senior just signed with Campbellsville University to become college football’s first female defensive back.

In order to be taken seriously by her high school teammates, Shelby told the Indy Star, “I’d wake up for 4 a.m. runs and stay at school until 8 p.m. working with the coaches.” She added, “I worked throughout the whole year, fell in love with the game and didn’t want to give it up.” Football had captured her heart.

So when the season ended her senior year, Shelby told her Jeffersonville High football coach Lonnie Oldham that she wanted to continue on and play college football. His initial thought was that it would be tough to get anyone to look at her. So, in true WYSKy spirit, she decided to MAKE them look.

His initial thought was that it would be tough to get anyone to look at her. So, in true WYSKy spirit, she decided to MAKE them look.

Shelby contacted schools around the country, including local schools in Indiana, with no luck. She was actually able to speak with schools in North Carolina and Florida, that was “until they found out the ‘Shelby’ writing to them was a woman.”

Then she attended an open recruiting visit at NAIA Campbellsville University in Kentucky and mustered up all her WYSK-iness. She explained to the Indy Star, “I went up to coach Perry Thomas and said, ‘I know I’m not what you’re expecting,’ because there were hundreds of recruits there.”

Coach Thomas knew Coach Oldham and, “It was all the convincing he needed.”

Standing 5-foot-6, 140-pounds, Shelby just barely hits the minimum size of the typical college football player in defensive positions. But her success may be less about her physical stature and more about her brain and her ability to strategize according to Coach Oldham. “She can get through the rigor of the running and conditioning part of it. I don’t know how she’ll do physically – like taking hits and stuff. But being a defensive back, it’s kind of like Deion Sanders. You can choose to hit or not hit. She’s got to make business decisions.”

defensive back

Of her history making victory as college football’s first female defensive back, this young Woman You Should Know said, “At first it was for me. It was something I wanted to do, and I went out and achieved it.” Her conclusion to that thought had the entire WYSK office erupt in simultaneous cheers, “But now I have girls coming to me asking for help. It doesn’t just apply to football – just anything they don’t see as a possibility because there are certain professions viewed as male professions that they could go into that they might not have thought about.”

That’s right Shelby… if they can’t see it, they can’t be it. So thank you for being such an awesome role model for girls everywhere to see and look up to.

Photo: Courtesy of Shelby Osborne