On Sept. 23, Leilani Armenta made history after she became the first woman to play for the Jackson State University Tigers during the HBCU’s Southwestern Athletic Conference against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats.
During the game, Armenta, a freshman from Ventura, California, made her big debut when she suited up for the opening kickoff. According to the Clarion-Ledger, the 5-foot-7 Mexican-American athlete cemented her name in HBCU Division I history after she landed a 25-yard kick, sending the ball to the opposite team’s 40-yard line. She achieved the historic moment while wearing a leg brace from a recent ACL injury.
Armenta did not appear in the rest of the game, but the legendary kick set up the Tigers for a winning victory. The team won against Bethune-Cookman 22-16.
On Sept. 19, Armenta joined Jackson State University to fill in for kicker Gerardo Baeza and punter Matt Noll (two non-Black players) after they suffered injuries. She was recommended to head coach T.C. Taylor due to her impressive track record as a place-kicker at Saint Bonaventure High School.
After the game, Coach Taylor told the Clarion-Ledger that he knew Armenta’s debut would be historic.
“I kind of figured there was some history we were making there, but it was a great opportunity for her to come out and help this football team and at the same time vice-versa,” Taylor said. “I am very proud of what she came out and did in that game.”
The Tigers star played with the Saint Bonaventure Seraphs for four years, where she made 98 out of 105 pass attempts and scored 113 points, kicking a career total of 3,552 yards.
After the game, on Sept. 24, Armenta took to X to thank fans for all of their love and support. She noted that it was her first game “10 months post ACL surgery.”
“Grateful and thankful,” she added.
Armenta shares her win with a few other female football history-makers.
Armenta’s big debut came a few days before Shaw University’s India Pulphus became the first female HBCU kicker to score an extra point in Shaw football and CIAA football history on Sept. 30.
In 2019, Antoinette “Toni” Harris cemented her name in history books when she became the first woman, playing at a skill position, to sign a letter of intent to play college football on a full scholarship at Central Methodist University (CMU).
Before transferring to CMU, the football star was a free safety at East Los Angeles College.
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