ALLEN, Texas — Jennifer Welter certainly felt it when she became what is believed to be the first woman who wasn’t a kicker or holder to play in a men’s pro football game.
The 5-foot-2, 130-pound resident of North Texas was thrown for a 1-yard loss on her first carry as a running back for the Texas Revolution in a preseason game in the 8-on-8 Indoor Football League on Saturday.
Welter was chirping at 6-4, 245-pound defensive end Cedric Hearvey and his North Texas Crunch teammates after trying to score from the 2-yard line.
“I said, ‘Is that all you got?’” Welter told The Dallas Morning News, describing the third-quarter sequence. “They were getting all alive, and I had to say something. I didn’t want them to think I was intimidated.”
Hearvey tackled the 36-year-old Welter again on her third and final carry in the fourth quarter before turning to the Revolution sideline and asking coaches to take her out “because this doesn’t feel right.”
“Honestly, it was very weird,” Hearvey, who played high school football in the Dallas area, said after the game. “Part of me wanted to let her score, but part of me had a job. So I was like, ‘Can y’all please take her out?’”
Welter made it clear she didn’t want anybody taking it easy on her.
“Honestly, I really have a lot of respect for that lady over there,” Hearvey said.
Welter has played linebacker for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Football Alliance since 2004. She isn’t advocating that women play against men, but didn’t want to turn down a rare chance when the Revolution called.
“I’ve thought of all the reasons why I might be the wrong person to do this: ‘You’re too small, you’re too this, you’re too that,’” she said. “The truth is if I can change the game, literally, for any of those girls, it’s worth it.”
The Revolution will have to cut the roster before the season opener on Friday, making it unlikely Welter will be around then. After all, about half of the players on the Revolution’s 37-man (and one woman) roster are at least a foot taller than she is. A dozen are more than twice her weight.
“I’ve been impressed with her grit and her desire,” Revolution coach Chris Williams said. “And even, in some cases, in the beginning I thought even delusional thoughts that she had about being able to play the game. But as I watched her, I’m impressed with how she comes to work every day.”