The backstories of past trailblazers can be dramatized, and over time, a little of the original narrative will change to fit the story we come to know. For example, a Wisconsin club soccer player may become a striker on full scholarship for the University of Wisconsin. An injury, barely noticeable to the naked eye, may become a nagging injury massaged by trainers prior to both of two failed attempts. Sometimes the story does morph into something bigger than it is, and before it does, let’s examine this trailblazers attempt… or attempts at history.
Lauren Silberman had aspirations of running onto a field in shoulder pads and a helmet, being cheered by thousands as she warmed up by slamming kick after perfect kick through the uprights. To be an NFL player, to wear a uniform with your name on the back and the NFL shield on the front is a dream many boys can identify with. For Lauren, gender wasn’t going to be a deterrent. After all, she couldn’t remember a time she hadn’t been “kicking around a soccer ball” and thought the transition wouldn’t be difficult. I had the same thought in my day, and attempted to make a similar transition. It seems simple enough, but it’s one thing to go from junior high to high school, and a completely different animal to go from club soccer to a professional roster.
Silberman wasn’t sought out by the National Football League for this tryout because of some merit or outstanding ability she exhibited. She caught no one’s eye on some local high school field with booming kicks or perfect form. This is the third year the NFL has run a regional combine program for previously undrafted athletes looking to show what they have left to actual NFL talent evaluators. As long as a person registers online and meets NFL eligibility rules, you too can attempt your dream of landing on an NFL roster.
Participants that wowed the crowd during regionals are invited to the Super Regional Combine on April 7-8, this year, being held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Marcus Dowtin played linebacker in three games for the New York Jets this past season, getting his start at last year’s regional. We all know the story of Greg Zuerlein, the man who went from regionals to the nickname ‘Legatron’ and stardom with the St. Louis Rams. Lauren Silberman and 69 other punters and placekickers attempted to emulate Zuerlein, and maybe have a chance at playing on Sundays.
What makes a young woman grow up dreaming of making an imprint in a male-dominated sport? Maybe she wanted to be that role model to other young girls, a symbol that one CAN even if all others say one can’t. My initial reaction was one of pride, for her, and for young girls who dream of doing what they’ve been told they couldn’t or shouldn’t. Two less than stellar attempts, a pulled quadriceps muscle later, and the dream was not to be, not this year at least.
Such a remarkable story, such a valiant attempt at the nearly impossible, I needed to know more. I wanted to find out what makes a young girl dream of life as a star on the gridiron. Oh wait, it wasn’t a lifelong dream? She saw this year’s big game and decided to do what? Other than practicing her kick for a few weeks with a kicking coach, the MIT graduate has almost no experience kicking the football. She has spent her academic and professional career studying the use of sporting video games to train athletes. Really, so this wasn’t an athlete perusing a dream, but an academic performing a little field study. I applaud the effort and respect her going out there and giving it a try, but let’s save the highly dramatized backstory for the first promising female football player… and not just the first female to give it a try.
Join the conversation anytime on Twitter @JerseyHaas, or send me your comments in an email to JosephHaasNFL@Gmail.com