Salzwedel Makes History as First Female Football Player at CLU

(Photos/Graphics: Tracy L. Olson)
(Photos/Graphics: Tracy L. Olson)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Some people know what they want to be when they grow up. Others have no idea what their calling is until a certain moment in time. That athletic moment for Morgan Salzwedel opened more doors than she could have imagined and now she is suiting up for a collegiate football team and making history.

At the end of her first year in high school, Salzwedel was approached about her interest in kicking for the Acorns at Live Oak High School. The difference was that Morgan, who starred as a center-defender on the girls' soccer team, and has played soccer since the age of six, had never played football before. She set her mind to it and decided to take a chance at the unique challenge, which has led to several once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. From that moment on, the multi-sport star has embraced everything that has come her way as she helps to pave the way for women in male-dominated sports.

"Playing a male-driven sport as a female is extremely empowering," Salzwedel said. "Being able to show that women have the strength, determination and talent to do anything that men can do means a lot to me."

Kicking did not come easy for the Morgan Hill, Calif. native. Then sixteen-year-old Salzwedel worked extremely hard all summer leading up to her sophomore campaign in high school and she ultimately earned a spot on the Acorns in the fall. Thankfully, she had guidance from her uncle Chris who was also a football kicker in his high school days. 

"I have worked very hard to get where I am today and a lot of that has to do with my family, teammates and coaches from high school and now on to CLU," she shared, "Without the overwhelming love and support from everyone it would be pretty difficult, but this process has been extremely rewarding and probably one of the best decisions I have made in my athletic career."

For three years she excelled on the football field and for four on the soccer pitch, earning several honors including First Team All-League selections in both sports as a senior while being recognized as the Student-Athlete of the Class of 2017 as chose by the coaches at her high school.

The honors and rewards have extended beyond the field, though one of her most memorable experiences did come on the field when she recorded her first tackle during a rivalry game when the kickoff returner avoided the entire special teams unit, leaving Salzwedel as the last defender. After learning how to tackle just weeks prior, she wrapped her arms around the player and knocked him out of bounds to save the score.

Off the field, she experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event as an attendee at a media day hosted inside the San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium just before her senior season at LOHS. Selected by her coaches, she was the lone, and first, female among a slew of local players to participate. The high schoolers all fielded interview questions, though she was faced with several more question than the others, from local reporters and league representatives before enjoying a tour of the stadium, meeting 49ers staff members, testing gear and running drills on the field.

While her high school career wound down, her college search heated up. Because nearly half of her family attended Cal Lutheran, including her parents, aunt, and uncle, who were all student-athletes, she never thought she, too, would become part of the CLU family. Fortunately, she took a visit and immediately fell in love with the campus, saying, "The second I stepped on campus I knew I had a purpose being here and that this was going to be my second home."

The small 225-acre campus, where her parents were married in the chapel and she was baptized, has become just that home she was looking for to complete a full, unique, circle. In addition to the life-memories shared at CLU, her father, Dave Salzwedel is a member of the Cal Lutheran Alumni Association Hall of Fame for his time playing soccer for the Kingsmen before going on to enjoy a professional career. Her mother Jenifer Salzwedel played volleyball for the Regals while her uncle played basketball and her aunt donned the Violet and Gold on the soccer field at CLU as well.

Now, Salzwedel, who has already made waves athletically, will continue that family tradition. Not only has she been able to contribute to her teams over the last few years, she has also inherited a passion for the sport in the process. She is majoring in marketing communication and minoring in sports management with career aspirations in the athletic realms as well.

"Working in a major sports market, like the NFL, ESPN, Fox News or with a successful football, soccer or basketball team or network would be a dream job for me," she noted.

Juggling athletic and academic responsibilities is a hard enough challenge for anyone, but as a first-year college student, navigating the scheduling and managing time for classes and athletics is especially imperative when football and soccer are during the same season.

"I am so blessed with the coaches and players I have come across throughout the past few years and I never would have imagined that I would be a two-sport collegiate student-athlete," Salzwedel, also a member of the junior varsity women's soccer program, said.

The 5-foot-8 kicker stepped onto the sidelined with the Kingsmen on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Pomona-Pitzer and while she did not officially participate in the game, it was the first time that a female football player was part of the active roster at CLU.

Next up for Salzwedel is her first taste of collegiate action. During Homecoming, be on the lookout to witness more history if Salzwedel is called upon to step on the gridiron for the Violet and Gold before a packed Rolland Stadium. Kickoff is Saturday, Oct. 14 at 1:00 p.m. against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Everyone has a dream. Some people create their own destiny. Some follow a path paved for them. Fortunately, for Salzwedel, she has enjoyed the best of both worlds.

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