Last Sunday, a soccer player named Lauren Silberman participated in a regional combine for NFL hopefuls.
Silberman represented herself as a kicker.
At the combine, she kicked twice, averaging a discouraging 15 yards per effort. She didn’t kick again, because she said she’d re-injured her leg, which she’d hurt the previous week. Afterward, speaking to a reporter from ABC News, she tried to put the best possible face on her performance:
“So many young girls reach out to me and tell me, ‘You’re such an inspiration.’ I’m glad that now they have, like, a visual model of someone in the role that they might not have perceived women could be in, and that, to me, is great,” Silberman said.
As far as another kicker named Katie Hnida is concerned, the “that” provided by Silberman is perhaps not so great.
“I was really underwhelmed, greatly underwhelmed, by her kicks and I really was, frankly, expecting a little bit more from her,” Hnida told Only A Game. “From everything I’ve seen, she doesn’t have any actual football-playing experience, and you could see that.”
Katie Hnida, on the other hand, does have football-playing experience. She kicked for college teams at Colorado and New Mexico, and at the latter, she became the first female to score points at the Division-I level. After graduating in 2004, Hnida, 31, played several years of Arena Football. She was unaware until this year of the regional combine system, which is a recent development, and said she’d have to be in the best physical and mental shape of her life in order to try out. Hnida, like lots of other observers, was curious about why Lauren Silberman kicked at all on Sunday, given that she said she was injured:
“I did find it a little bit curious. She didn’t do any warming up. Didn’t do any warm-up kicks,” Hnida said. “And as kickers, we’ll start off with no steps and one steps and test out our legs, to see how things are before kicking cold.”
Nine years ago, Katie Hnida proved a woman who wanted to kick for a D-I football team could overcome significant odds. At Colorado she made the team, but eventually transferred after reporting incidents of sexual harassment and a rape to university authorities. After transferring to New Mexico, where she was welcomed by her new teammates, her kicks were up…and good. No other woman has since been able to make that claim at the D-I level, so it seemed logical to ask Katie Hnida if Lauren Silberman’s ineptitude had set back the cause:
“I don’t think so. I think we’re gonna be okay. Last year there were 1,500 girls playing football in the United States. We’re seeing girls playing at younger and younger ages. And we’ve got some girls out there with great talent,” Hnida said. “They’re out there kicking butt, they look great. I think we’re gonna see some of these girls have very bright futures.”
Whether those futures will include success at a level beyond D-I college ball and the Arena League perhaps future regional combines will tell.