Meet Aileen Charles: Northridge’s Second-Ever Female Kicker
When the Northridge Jaguars turn up the Dexys Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen," the fans know it's time for Aileen Charles to hit the field.
Charles' love for football started when she played backyard football with her friends as a child. She then began to play flag football, continued playing throughout middle school and decided to try to play in high school after talking to her parents and head coach Mike Vickery.
Charles made her start against the Mountain Brook Spartans her sophomore year. She cleared a 29-yard field goal in her first varsity attempt and has continued to kick for the Jaguars with support from her parents.
"My biggest supporter is definitely either my mom or dad. I'm more than certain my mom has been to every sporting event I've ever had had...I'm beyond lucky to have both of their support," Charles said.
The junior kicker is not the only woman to start for the Jaguars. Back in 2015, Savannah Reier made Jaguars history as she became the first female kicker.
Reier played for two years at Hilton Head before transferring to Northridge, admitting it was a little intimidating to play for a new team.
"I actually saw they were having tryouts for football in the cafeteria," Reier said. "I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to do it just because I was new, didn't know any people there, and didn't know if I actually wanted to participate.
"Still, I went up to the table anyways and told the head coach at the time, Mike Smith, that I would love to try out," Reier continued. "He was kind of hesitant, honestly. He didn't sound confident, and at that moment, I just knew I was going to prove that guy wrong."
Reier impressed everyone at practice and earned a spot on the team. The former kicker said it was the best year of her life and still keeps in touch with her former teammates.
Charles said it is fantastic to carry on the tradition and encourages other females to do it so they can step out of their comfort zone.
"It was always really cool because I heard stories about her when I was younger, and now I'm doing the same stuff that I was hearing about her doing," said Charles. "I would encourage other females to do it just by reaching out of their comfort zones because I know the only thing that held me back from doing football was me being scared at first."
Ashley Martin, Tonya Butler and Sarah Fuller opened the path for collegiate woman kickers. Martin became the first woman to score in an NCAA game for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in 2001, and Butler became the first woman to score a field goal in an NCAA game with the West Alabama Tigers two years later.
Recently, Fuller became the first woman to play in a power five game last year for Vanderbilt. The current Jaguars kicker described the feeling of females making history.
"It's always amazing to see female athletes make history and especially cooler because it happened to be another female kicker," Charles said.
Although she dreams of playing college soccer, she would take the opportunity if a power five team offered a chance to try out. When Alabama needs a new kicker, head coach Nick Saban should look no further than Northridge High.
Charles and the Jaguars will travel to Hueytown Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. for Friday Night Lights. When "Come on Eileen" starts to play, look for #17 to hit the stage.