Simon Fraser football's Kristie Elliott didn't understand the magnitude of the moment until after she converted the extra point that made her the first Canadian woman to score in a college game.
Media requests poured in, including from notable outlets like Canadian sports network TSN, after that kick against Linfield last September.
"I didn't realize this was a big thing," the North Vancouver, British Columbia, native said.
The moment's true meaning revealed itself a few weeks later, however. By then, Elliott had grown tired of the media and attention. She felt she didn't deserve it. She knew it was coming because she's a woman in football, but she wanted her teammates to receive equal attention. Overwhelmed by it all, she started turning down requests.
Then, something changed her perspective. Girls and women of all ages were reaching out to share how her story had inspired them.
"I'm having so many younger females reach out to me on social media saying, 'You're so much of an inspiration. Can you teach me how to do this and this?' It warms my heart because, for me, I'm just out there doing something I like to do, so the fact that I could be changing someone's life, giving them that extra push to do something that they're afraid of doing, it means a lot to me," she said. "That's when I realized this is more than just me, and there's something really great to my story. Although I would prefer not to do all of these interviews, I'm doing it for other people.
"My success and my dreams are helping other people and inspiring other people to do great things, so I have to be selfless in this situation so I can make a change, and that's what I want to do. So now I realize this is way bigger than just me. Now I want to inspire other people."
The fourth-year junior majoring in psychology plans to get into motivational speaking after she finishes her college career. She's even thinking of writing a book. She's also passionate about performance psychology.
Her journey through football, in many ways, is the vehicle to do these things. Most recently, it's taken her across the globe to Finland to play for Team Canada's Senior National Tackle Team in the International Federation of American Football Women's World Championship from July 27-Aug. 8. She was one of 45 women selected after a tryout in May.
The opportunity to play with other women may become a chapter in her future book. The experience has been empowering, Elliott said. So much so that she's looking to help grow the sport for young girls in British Columbia as a starting point.
"I would love to be part of that and use my knowledge and what I have gained throughout my last couple of years and make more younger women's football teams," she said. "I definitely want to be an advocate for women in sports, women in football, women just in life."
While Elliott hopes to open doors for girls to try football, that is not her story with the sport.
She started her career at Simon Fraser — an NCAA Division II school in Burnaby, British Columbia — as a hurdler for the track and field team in 2018. A former high school soccer standout who earned the nickname "Thumper" for her strong leg, Elliott nonchalantly told a few football players during her first semester that she could make a 40-yard field goal. In disbelief, they challenged her to do so. Months passed until, after a track practice that spring, she decided to give it a shot. With a teammate recording on her phone, she made the kick.
The video circulated quickly and found its way into the football team's group chat. Some football players even encouraged her to reach out to their head coach. Elliott, who said she knew "nothing" about football at the time, was very resistant to that idea. Her roommate, however, emailed the coach for her.
After a welcoming meeting with then-head coach Thomas Ford, Elliott decided to attend the team's preseason camp. It went well enough to earn her a roster spot in 2019. She redshirted her first season as she continued to hone her new kicking craft. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which offered her more time to improve before she earned the starting spot in 2021. Elliott earned an honorable mention nod in the 2021 Great Northwest Athletic Conference voting by coaches for going 9-for-11 on extra points and 3-for-5 on field goals in her first football season ever.
During this journey, Elliott earned a scholarship in football. This was before her first live kick, too. To her, it represented a pinnacle moment of hard work being recognized and reinforced a common mantra she's bought into: "Trust the process."
"A lot of people do say that, but I trusted the process for three years, and it finally paid off," she said. "You will have your ups and downs. … People do see your hard work and efforts."
A more micro example of trusting the process occurred before Elliott's first made extra point. She wants more people to know that it was preceded by a 39-yard field goal attempt that she "completely shanked."
"I think it's important to talk about the lows, not just all the highs," she said.
The first time she walked onto the field with her teammates three years ago is another example.
"Lots of the guys thought I was a trainer. I got asked if I was someone's girlfriend," she said. "Going into it was very intimidating."
Elliott added that the team quickly embraced her, and she now considers her teammates her "brothers." The lesson she hopes others can learn from these experiences is to be "comfortable being uncomfortable" when it comes to new opportunities.
"Looking back four years ago today, never in a million years would I imagine being on a men's football team kicking, going to Finland (to play for Team Canada's women) … so put yourself out there," she said. "You're not going to get anywhere if you're just cruising through life being comfortable."