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Female kicker struggles mightily during historic NFL tryout

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The first woman to try out at an NFL combine didn't quite kick her way into the history books the way she was hoping.

Lauren Silberman's first kickoff at the NFL Regional Combine hosted by the New York Jets traveled about 19 yards. Her second attempt went about 13. The average NFL kickoff travels about 60 yards.

The former University of Wisconsin club soccer player, who had no prior football experience, blamed her struggles on a quadriceps injury.

"I tried staying off it and waited for (Sunday)," she said. "I didn't even take kicks in warmups, and, it's pretty hard to know that you'll be in pain and I wanted to work through it and I certainly tried to, but I just couldn't do it today."

The 28-year-old paid $275 to participate in the combine, and said if she was presented with the opportunity again, she would take it. In fact, she is planning on it.

"I've always been an athlete, and I've always been a gamer," Silberman said while fighting back tears. "When I had the opportunity to be in the NFL, one of the world's most competitive leagues, I absolutely had to take the chance."

"I would certainly be very, very excited and happy if I had the opportunity to try again."

When asked how far her kickoffs went in the practices leading up to the combine, Silberman said "it's hard to say." That comment had New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy steamed, as he called Silberman "completely out of place, and not because of her gender."

"There are women field goal kickers, like Katie Hnida at the University of New Mexico," Bondy wrote, referring to Hnida, a former Chatfield High School and University of Colorado placekicker. "Those women have accomplished far more as competent pioneers.

"After watching Silberman mis-kick two footballs, you simply wondered: Why had she bothered? And why had the NFL so willingly gone along with what might well be a publicity stunt?"

Stephen Austin, director of NFL Regional Combines, defended Silberman's invite, saying she was included among a field of 36 kickers because she had demonstrated a certain amount of athletic ability.

“Her evaluation is completely incomplete,” Austin said. “You’re evaluating an injured player.”