Thu, 01/23/2014 - 11:01am
After 13 years in professional football, Jen Welter has seen about everything that the women’s game has to offer.
Soon, she’ll be taking her skills to the men’s side of the sport.
Welter is scheduled to sign a contract Friday to try out for the Indoor Football League’sTexas Revolution, a team based out of suburban Dallas. She is believed to be the first female non-kicker to be invited to compete for a spot in an all-men’s football league.
At 5-foot-2, 130 pounds, Welter will give up a lot in size and strength to her competition.
She plans to bring enough heart, though, to make up the difference.
“Right now, girls all across the country who love football are faced with the choice to either play with the boys or not play,” Welter said. “I want to play for all those girls.”
Welter has been playing full-contact sports since starring at rugby during her four years at Boston College.
Discounted even then because of her size in a rugged, rough game, soon after graduation, she picked up another hard-hitting sport: football.
Welter has played for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Football Alliance since 2004, helping the team win four league championships and drawing the eye of Revolution general manager Tim Brown, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame.
Welter has primarily played linebacker and safety in the women’s game but is expected to compete at running back for the Revolution. Training camp opens Feb. 8, and Welter is planning to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“If people don’t want me or any other girl to play with the boys, then equivalent options need to be created for girls to play against girls with the same resources that the boys get,” Welter said. “I have been blessed with a great football career. At this point, there is no debate as to whether or not I am a great female football player. The question is: Should I have to play with the men in order to sign with a professional arena team?”
Brown and the Revolution think she’s capable and look forward to seeing what she can do during camp.
“Dr. Welter is an amazing athlete who has proven herself to be amongst the top female tackle-football players in the world, and we are excited to bring her into training camp,” the Revolution’s Brown said.
Welter believes that girls should have every opportunity to play football, and if that means breaking barriers within the IFL to bring attention to it, she is willing to do that.
As a hard-hitting linebacker with a Ph.D. in psychology, it’s not like she’s never challenged stereotypes before.
“I thought about all the stories I have heard about girls who wanted to play but weren't allowed, and I thought about all the times I had been told I shouldn't be playing football,” Welter said. “I even thought about other players who might be bigger, faster, stronger and ultimately better suited for this than I would be. The conclusion I came to was all of the things that might make me wrong for this were exactly the things that have given me this opportunity to make history.”