Female kicker auditions at NFL combine, two kickoffs total 30 yards
BY MIKE GARAFOLO USA TODAY Sports March 3, 2013 7:42PM
Updated: March 3, 2013 7:56PM
Florham Park, N.J. -- Lauren Silberman’s bid to make the NFL consisted of two kickoffs totaling 30 yards, an aggravation of a quad injury she said she initially suffered in training last week and a whole lot of wondering whether the entire thing was a promotional sham.
Silberman, 28, a former MIT student who promoted her business in interviews with USA TODAY Sports and the NFL Network last week, didn’t exactly stand up to the other 37 male kickers during her brief tryout at the New York/New Jersey regional scouting combine Sunday.
Silberman did not take practice kicks. She merely jogged toward a tee and made a faint kicking motion.
Her first kick from the 35-yard line, which came after it took her more than 20 seconds to place the ball on the tee, was a line drive that barely crossed midfield. The second one didn’t get past the 50.
Silberman, who landed awkwardly after her first attempt, then asked if she could see a trainer.
The former college club-level soccer player with no football experience limped to the sideline and was examined for 10 minutes.
Silberman vowed to give it another try as she disappeared into the cafeteria. But after she came back onto the field and consulted with combine officials, she decided to call it a day.
“I did the right thing by my body by resting it. It would be very dangerous for me to keep pushing my quad if the muscles would continue to tear,” she said.
And what about those kickoffs? “They certainly didn’t go as far as they were in practices. The distance wasn’t there, but hopefully the scouts will notice my technique. It’s not always length.”
Silberman told USA TODAY Sports last week she’d been working with former Syracuse kicker Ricky Krautman. She wouldn’t reveal the length of her longest field goal.
Asked Sunday how long her kickoffs went during practices, Silberman replied, “It’s still hard to exactly say, but I just got better day by day. The distance is getting there.”
Silberman left while the rest of kickers went through a debriefing.
Three other participants in Sunday’s workout said Silberman asked multiple male kickers how to properly approach the ball for kickoffs. The participants spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to hurt their chances of getting another tryout with a team.
Silberman and all NFL hopefuls can register for the regional combines by paying an entry fee ($275 for kickers and punters).
On the NFL’s website for registration, however, the league makes it clear it expects serious competitors:
“Applicants must meet NFL eligibility rules and be able to perform at a high skill level. The NFL reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject any applicant it determines to be unqualified or unfit to compete.”
A league spokesman said registrants are turned away only if they miss the deadline, are ineligible for the current year’s draft or there are no more available slots.
“Until they get here, we don’t have any idea what they’re really going to turn out to do and how they’re going to perform,” said Stephen Austin, the director of the NFL’s regional combines. “What I like to say is by 5 o’clock, I’ll know.”
By that time, there was one seriously disheartened woman.
And it wasn’t Silberman. It was Katie Hnida, a former place kicker for Colorado and New Mexico who was the first female to score in a Division I game.
“It is disappointing,” Hnida told USA TODAY Sports after watching a video of Silberman’s failed attempts. “I hoped she would go out and do justice for an NFL tryout because there are lots of people who have dreamed of going to the NFL. It should be something serious.”
Hnida received lots of supportive tweets prior to Sunday from those who mistook her for Silberman.
“There is no way I would ever do that unless I was in the absolute best shape of my life and could really compete with these guys,” Hnida said. “These guys are good. This is not a joke. It didn’t appear she was mentally or physically prepped for an elite-athlete tryout.”