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At 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds, Danielle Resha is quite possibly the smallest thing on the field -- if you don't count the football. But size hasn't stopped this 19-year-old former high school soccer player from making her presence known as the kicker for the Boston Ravens. It's a men's semipro tackle football team and Resha is the first female to play in the Eastern Football League in its 50-year history.
Her foray into the game gave many people, including her parents, cause for concern. After all, this isn't flag football. We're talking real-deal contact, as in broken noses, crushing chest blows and cracked ribs. But working under the guidance of her coach, Donnie Williams, Resha is proving that gender comes second to guts in this game. We checked in with Coach Williams about the gridiron girl.
espnW: How did your all-male team end up with a female kicker?
Donnie Williams: The previous season, we lost 7-6 in the playoffs. We lost, basically, because we didn't have a kicker who could kick. After that game, I said to the team, Come hell or high water, next season I'm getting us a kicker.
espnW: And you found Danielle?
DW: Danielle was a former soccer player, so she knew how to kick. She was looking for another sport to play, and I'd talked with her about joining the female football team. When I approached her about becoming the kicker for the Ravens, she was a little apprehensive. She was new to the game, let alone playing with a bunch of guys twice her size.
espnW: What made you think she was the right woman for the job?
DW: She has the mental makeup you need to be a kicker, and to play football. She is tough; she is not going to crack. She can deal with the pressure, and with any negative comments. I needed someone with a strong leg, but more than that, I needed someone who was mentally prepared for the job.
I never thought of it as a gender thing. It was more, "Give me the person who will do the best, most consistent job kicking this ball between two posts." And based on that, I chose Danielle.
espnW: How did the team respond?
DW: Well, some of them thought I'd lost my mind. A girl kicker?! Really? But then she went out on the field, and when they saw her kick, they turned and said to the guy filling in, "OK, you're fired." It was clear that what mattered was how she played the game, and that's what won them over.
espnW: What's been the biggest learning curve you've had to coach Danielle through?
DW: It's the little things. She'd never played the game before. She has a natural kicking ability from playing soccer, but things happen fast in football. You have 1.2 to 1.5 seconds to get the ball in the air. So we've worked on speed and getting her leg a little stronger. But, you know, she just turned 19. She has time to learn. I think she's a fine young lady, and she's one heck of a football player.
-- Julia Savacool