The NFL was founded in 1920. Football is a brutal game, dependent on slamming into your opponent full force or sprinting away from such an event. With such physicality necessary, only the top athletes around the country make it to the league.
The NFL Players Association calculated there is only a 0.2% chance that a high school football player will end up on an NFL roster. This means you can’t just be a peak athlete and make it to the league; you must have a sharpened skillset and the right personality to earn a shot.
Of all the athletes to wind up playing for the 100-year-old league, none of them have been women. This is not due to the legislature, as there are no specific restrictions keeping women away. In fact, women have competed in organized football for nearly a century, dating all the way back to 1926. During that time, the NFL team Frankford Yellow Jackets hired female football players to compete during halftime of their own games.
The average size of an NFL player is 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds. A body frame like that is rare among women. Although there are many examples of female weight lifters or wrestlers achieving such sizes, most of them lack the speed necessary to compete in the NFL.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson was clocked running at 22.23 mph during a play last season, accomplishing this while in full pads. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill recently posted a speed of 21.95 mph, relaying the message that NFL players aren’t just big, but also ridiculously fast.
The consensus fastest woman ever, Florence Griffith Joyner, ran 100 meters in 10.49 seconds during the 1988 Olympic Games. This converts to about 21.3 mph. This speed certainly rivals some of the fastest men in the NFL; however, she accomplished this without pads, standing at 5-foot-7 and weighing 130 pounds. Patterson is a full 100 pounds heavier than her, more than half a foot taller, and ran faster while carrying about 20 pounds of pads. The physical disparities between men and women, although sometimes bridged, are typically significant.
What Position Can Women Play?
The most obvious answer to this question is kicker or punter. These positions require the least amount of athleticism, instead relying primarily on leg strength, technique, and clutchness.
Lauren Silberman is the first woman to officially try out for the NFL. During an NFL scouting combine, she attempted several kickoffs to become the first female kicker in the NFL. All of her kicks were disappointing, none exceeding more than 20 yards. She claimed a quad injury hindered her performance, but it was clear that she definitely wasn’t ready for the league, regardless of gender.
Silberman certainly wasn’t the best example for women. Heidi Garrett set the female record in 2004, when she connected on a 48-yard try for King High School in Riverside, California. She scored over 100 points throughout her high school career and was one of the most consistent high school kickers in the state. Despite her success, she elected to play soccer in college instead of football, eventually playing for the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Could it Ever Actually Happen?
I would argue there will likely not be a female NFL player, at least for the foreseeable future. With most positions requiring top-end speed combined with a 200-pound frame, it is doubtful many women will achieve such athleticism. This creates a scarcity of positions women can play, making it even more difficult to join the league.
Women compete in most of the same sports as males. There are female football leagues, basketball leagues, soccer leagues, and even mixed martial arts competitions. In the state of Florida, legislation just passed announcing female wrestling as a recognized high school sport. Young women are free to pursue whichever sport their hearts desire.
If a woman is to make it to the NFL, she will need to be an exceptional athlete with major accomplishments and an intense competitive nature. There are plenty of female athletes around the world that hold these traits. Many of them simply pursue other sports. The NFL has historically always been composed of men and will likely continue that trend for quite some time.
Written by: Cameron Jones