Home2019-2020Issue 9Bearcat Spotlight: interview with Kyla Gordon

Bearcat Spotlight: interview with Kyla Gordon

Jacob Bloom

Staff writer

First-year placekicker Kyla Gordon became Willamette University’s all-time leading female scorer in football this past Saturday, Oct. 26. She surpassed placekicker KayLyn Stirton’s (’19) previous scoring record of 11 points during Willamette’s 34-49 loss to Lewis & Clark. She now has 14 points this season. Gordon is the third female kicker to play at Willamette, the first being Liz Heaston in 1997, who was the first female to ever play and score in a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football game. Gordon said that she joined the football team because of her love for the game. “I just want to compete at a higher level… This is what I love.”

Gordon, who grew up playing soccer, said her dad was the first person to suggest she play football: “The idea started at the end of my seventh-grade year, and kinda started with my dad. He was like, ‘Hey, you can kick a soccer ball really far, go kick a football.’” Gordon said that her response was nonchalant: “I was like, OK, why not?” 

Although kicking was initially intimidating for Gordon, she quickly grew to love it.

“When I started playing I was completely terrified. I would dread going to practice the first couple weeks. Eventually, when we got into the games though, I fell in love with the sport.” 

Gordon went on to explain that while her first year playing football was especially difficult, the beginning of every year is challenging for her: “Every year brings a new bout of anxiety and I ask, ‘Do I really want to do this?’, but as soon as I step on the field or kick a ball, I’m like, ‘This is what I’m gonna do, this is what I love.’”

One of Gordon’s biggest influences is her mentor Alexis Serna, who was the starting kicker for the Oregon Beavers between 2004 and 2007. Gordon said that without Serna, she wouldn’t be playing in college. “Heading into my senior year, I did not think I would be playing college football next year. I had the mentality like, ‘This is my last year, after this my cleats are going to be thrown into the back of my closet and I’m never going to kick again.’ Then I talked to Alexis [Serna], and he said, ‘You have the ability to play at the next level. Whether that’s Division II or Division III, you have the ability.’”

Serna was right about Gordon’s abilities. So far, she’s made 14 of 17 Point After Touchdown attempts (PATs) in five games. While thus far Gordon has had only one field goal opportunity, she said she aspires to kick field goals too: “If we kick field goals, I’m hoping to be the one to do it… It’s about the coaches having the confidence in me to make it. I need to be ready.” 

Gordon, who grew up in Salem, said she was originally hoping to attend college outside of Oregon. However, this changed when she visited Willamette and got to meet Head Coach Isaac Parker and the other football players. “I got to hang out with more of the guys and decided that’s where I want to go because of the environment [of] the team,” she said. “All the guys are super respectful.”

She also talked about a touching moment with Parker during her first visit with him. Gordon said that Parker told her that he knew that she would be a hero to his two-year-old daughter. According to Gordon, he told her, ‘You’re doing something you love, and you’re good at it, and I think a lot of girls will find inspiration in you.'”

One idea that Gordon spoke extensively about was ‘paying it forward,’ a concept about receiving kindness and then passing it on to another. She was inspired by this idea because of Serna, who coached her completely for free. According to Gordon, when her family offered to pay him he replied, “I don’t want money.” Serna inspired Gordon so much that she has decided to pay it forward herself. After attending her younger brother’s eighth-grade football game at the same school she played at six years ago, she noticed that the school also had a female kicker. Gordon approached both the player and her mom and offered to coach her for free. Gordon explained, “I don’t want to be paid. That’s what Serna did for me, so I want to pay that forward too.”

jhbloom@willamette.edu

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