Seemingly overnight, Maya Turner’s name took flight as she made Canadian football history.
On September 23, 2023 she became the first woman to suit up in a U SPORTS regular season football game, as well as the first woman to score a point in one.
And everyone took notice.
“It's definitely been really crazy,” said Turner, who was perfect on the night, connecting on all three extra points and two field goals, including a double overtime 21-yard game winner for the Manitoba Bisons over the Regina Rams.
“I did not expect any of this. I've just gotten so much support from so many different places.”
In addition to having this historical opportunity, the Minnesota-native says it was the most exciting moment she’s ever had in any sports game in her life.
“It was a really tight game, so we needed those points for the win. I was definitely really nervous going out there but when it came down to it, I was ready, I was prepared.”
Turner says that leading up to the game she felt the pressure that came with being the first woman to dress and potentially score.
“I definitely did feel a lot of pressure to make all my kicks because there were a lot of eyes on me. And then, especially if I were to make a mistake, that would also be magnified as well.”
Still, the encouragement she received was endless.
“A lot of people reached out to me that I haven't heard from in a while, telling me they've heard about the game and everything,” said Turner. “I have gotten some messages from other girls who play football or just other women in male dominated sports. It's been really nice to see that I've made an impact like that.”
Like many kickers, Turner’s journey began as a soccer player. Most recently, she played university soccer for Loyola University Chicago.
“I played soccer my whole life. That was pretty much my only sport for as long as I can remember,” said Turner. “My second year, I just got really burnt out from soccer. You know, I just knew that wasn't what I wanted to do and it wasn't making me happy.”
This was when Turner decided to quit and try to pursue another sport.
“I didn't know what I wanted to do yet, but I saw that my school had a club football team,” said Turner. “I always thought it would be really fun to play and kick field goals because my biggest strengths in soccer were ball striking.”
Turner eventually joined the school’s club football team and fell in love with it. She then reached out to kicking coaches in the Midwest and attended kicking camps to help her in the recruiting process. From there, she sent her film to the University of Manitoba.
“When Coach Dobie reached out to me, I was really excited,” said Turner. “Then he had me for a visit. He watched me kick and offered me when I was there.”
And accepting the offer wasn’t a hard choice for Turner to make.
“I knew that was the place where I wanted to be. I just loved the environment. Everyone I met there was really supportive and welcoming.”
After spending her first year wearing a red shirt, she finally made the active roster this season — when history came to be.
And when asked about the future following this feat, Turner says she just wants to see how much she can improve and would like to play football for as long as she can. This includes continuing to show other women that what she has achieved is possible.
“I think it helps a lot seeing other women do it, just to see that it can be done and that it's a realistic goal.”
When it comes to advice to other women on getting started, Turner says it’s a matter of finding the right people who will support you and staying determined.
“If a woman does want to play university football at a high level and if you're good enough to compete at that level, and you find a program that appreciates you for the player you are and what you can do on the field, it’s definitely something you can achieve.”