Twenty Years Before Sarah Fuller, There Was MGC’s Tonya Butler

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2020 12:00 AM
Category: Pressroom

Cochran, GA

The top photo shows Tonya Butler taking her first college kick in 1999 and scoring the extra point for Middle Georgia College, now Middle Georgia State University. The bottom image, used with the University of West Alabama’s permission, shows her during her time on that team.

If you’re a college football fan you may have heard about Sarah Fuller, a kicker for Vanderbilt University. Last weekend she became the first woman to participate in a Power 5 football game.

So, just in time for #TBT, we are recalling a woman named Tonya Butler, who played on the Middle Georgia College (now #MGA) football team as a placekicker about 20 years ago. Butler, who is from Fayetteville, Ga., was the first woman to score a field goal in a college football game, although that was for the University of West Alabama, not Middle Georgia College. But MGC is where, in 1999, she began her collegiate football career. Her signing with MGC made her the first woman to earn a football scholarship at a state school.

Butler earned an associate’s degree from Middle Georgia and went on to complete her bachelor’s at Georgia Southern. Because she had two years of eligibility remaining, her MGC coach, Randy Pippin, recruited her as a placekicker after he moved on to coach at the University of West Alabama. She enrolled at UWA as a graduate student and won the starting placekicker position for the 2003 season. In the first game of the season, Butler scored on a 27-yard field goal attempt against Stillman College with 9:41 remaining in the first quarter.

Butler served as West Alabama’s placekicker for both the 2003 and 2004 seasons. For her career she made 13 of 19 field goal attempts with a long kick of 39 yards, and 48 of 53 in extra point attempts. Her 50 total points made during the 2003 season led the squad, and she was named special teams captain in both her years at West Alabama. Butler also was named Academic All-Gulf South Conference in 2004 and graduated in 2005 with a master's degree in psychology and counseling. In January 2006, her West Alabama helmet, jersey and cleats were displayed at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis in recognition of her accomplishments as a student-athlete.

She held the record for the most points scored by a female college football player with 87 through the 2010 season when Brittany Ryan from Lebanon Valley College established the new mark.

Butler was ranked 24th on a list of “30 Most Influential Women in College Sports” published by the online Sports Management Degree Guide.

Sources: MGC archives, Wikipedia, Sports Management Degree Guide, ESPN.