For a long time, all I knew about Mo Isom was that she was a female athlete at LSU who had produced some entertaining light-hearted videos with some of LSU’s football stars. What I didn’t know (until last night) was her riveting backstory. I was not aware of the fact that this LSU homecoming queen had a real shot at becoming LSU’s first female place kicker. Nor did I realize that she was an outspoken Christian who had walked through a tremendous amount of turmoil in her own life. The jokester in the YouTube videos had betrayed none of those things.
Jordan Conn has Mo’s full story over at Grantland in an article titled “Let It Fly.” It’s a long piece but well-worth your time to read—even if you’re not an LSU fan like I am. There’s no way to excerpt this article in a way that will do justice to the entire story, but here’s a taste anyway:
For 22 years, she has inhabited this body, and at almost every step of the way, someone has found it to be too something. She’s been called too fat and too skinny, too weak and too strong, too pretty and too ugly, too provocative and too chaste. She says, however, that none of that matters with this team. To them, she insists, it doesn’t even matter that she’s a woman. Just put it through the uprights, and biology will be forgotten.
She knows the counterarguments. She’ll be a distraction: “I’m more concerned with me being a distraction than the guys are,” she says. She’ll get hurt: “Do I think I can make a tackle? Absolutely. But I won’t be kicking off, so it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever actually need to.” She’ll ruin the locker room atmosphere: “The female trainers have their own locker room right next to the players’ locker room — it’s not an issue.” She can’t do what these men do: “I know I can make this team.”
She lines up and kicks from 35 yards. It’s good. She grabs another ball, lines it up, and kicks again.
Someone is bound to ask me my opinion about the propriety of a woman playing college football. My feelings on the matter are the same as my feelings about women serving in combat. In a civilized society in which women should be cherished and protected, it just shouldn’t happen. I know that she’s just a field-goal kicker and would likely never tackle or be tackled in an actual game. But that doesn’t change what is required of all players in practice drills and any number of other situations. This is no place for a woman. Any guy willing to tackle a girl—especially with the kind of ferocity that is required in SEC football—is failing at his responsibilities as a man in my view. No coach worth his salt would ever allow even the possibility of such a thing to happen.
The Grantland article was written before final cuts were announced last Friday. After finding out that she did not make the team, she tweeted this:
I am heartbroken, but my head is held high. Knowing I gave everything I had is the greatest victory. Unending thanks to my LSU football fam.
Even though she didn’t make the team, this is still a fascinating article about a girl with a fascinating story. Read it here.
(HT: Sarah Pulliam Bailey)