Ok gridirongirls this post is a little deeper than the norm, but stay with me here because this interview is one I have been dreaming of for a very long time! The woman I interviewed is not only a historical part of college football, but also a personal mentor and role model of mine.
At the end of my 7th grade football season, (remember my very first post when I told ya I played football? I wasn’t lying!) my mom took me to a book signing for Still Kicking by Katie Hnida, the former kicker for our home town team, UNM. At the end of the reading, Katie took a few minutes to talk football with me, and encouraged me to stay in touch. At that stage in my life, I was going through a lot, and having someone like Katie (who has also been through quite a few bumps in her day) support my dreams was a big dose of positive just when I needed it. On a personal note, I’d really like to dedicate this post to all the women out there who are busting their butts for their dreams! Anything you want to do is possible, no matter what anyone else has to say about it!
To give you a better idea who Katie Hnida is (if you aren’t familiar with the name), she’s the first woman to play D-1 College football. Katie played as a kicker for CU where she was raped, and had a hard time returning to the team. She found herself checking out multiple other colleges but wound up calling my home team, UNM, her new home. Katie was vastly accepted by the Lobo family and is to this day, one of the biggest roles in college football for many people. She played along side some of the greats we see in the NFL today. Not only is she a positive role model to women, but to everyone as a leader in the new era of sports careers for women!
To make it easier I’ve labeled my questions with KT (Kymbrye Temple) and her responses with KH (Katie Hnida). I tried to ask questions I thought you’d like to know the answer to, and I got a lot of good information from her! If you haven’t already, go check out her book Still Kicking. It’s a personal favorite of mine!
KT: What was the best part of playing college football?
KH: The best part was getting to be a part of a team that’s a family, to represent a school I was so proud of and to get to do the thing I loved most- just play ball.
KT: If you could go back and play for any college team in the nation, which team would you be the most interested in playing with?
KH: UNM. UNM. All UNM. After CU, I visited UCLA, Auburn, Ohio State & UNM. I thank God every day that I ended up with the Lobos. It was the right fit for me. It’s impossible to even think of suiting up elsewhere. I am a Lobo for life.
KT: If you could switch the position you played would you? And if so, which position would you want to play?
KH: Linebacker. If I had the size, I’d make quarterbacks hear footsteps every play. When we would play Razzle Dazzle ball for fun in college, I used to play linebacker and ask to blitz on every play.
KT: What were your thoughts on going pro? Was that something you wanted to do?
KH: In 2010, I became the first woman to play pro arena football. It’s always amazing to get paid for doing something you love, even if it’s a not much. I still kick & am planning on another season at a pro level somewhere in 2014.
KT: In your book “Still Kicking” you talk about how supportive your family was, did that make easier for you transitioning to UNM?
KH: Yes. I never could have done any of the things I did without my family. They have been with me every step of the way.
KT: What was the most difficult aspect of playing football as a woman?
KH: When I encountered people who didn’t think I could play because of my gender. If I had a penny for every person who didn’t believe in what I was doing, I would be a rich, rich woman. However I was fortunate to have the support of the people who mattered and the faith in myself. Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the ones doing it.
KT: What advice would you give girls wanting to play football these days?
KH: Go for it! Live your dreams. If you encounter obstacles, keep the faith and know there are many people who do support you.
KT: Who’s your favorite NFL team to watch on Sundays?
KH: Broncos! But I watch every single game I get.
KT: I know you’re a very big advocate for rape awareness and prevention, what tips or advice would you give girls on protecting themselves?
KH: For girls- trust your gut. If something feels off or wrong, it probably is. But I’d rather teach men and boys NOT to rape than tell girls “Don’t get raped”
KT: In your book it came across that UNM was a new beginning for you. Did you feel more accepted by the team and staff at UNM?
KH: I did. Not only was I accepted at UNM, but they became a true second family for me. I had 100 (stinky) brothers, coaches, trainers & managers who had my back. Sometimes I think I am the luckiest girl in the world.
KT: Here at gridirongirl, we aim to break football down for girls to make it easier for them to understand. What would you say is the most important thing to know about football?
KH: Good question. I would say learning the basics- things- positions, downs, etc. will make the game more enjoyable. Football is much more complex than most people realize. There are so many different formations & schemes- we spent just as much time working off the field than on it.
KT: What was the hardest aspect of learning about the game?
KH: To be honest, it’s hard to remember because I have been enmeshed in the game for so long. When I got to UNM, we ran a very unique defense. It’s easy to identify the popular ones, like a 3-4 (which many teams run as a base) but sometimes coaches get creative and you can see some fun stuff.
KT: Who is/was your favorite player?
KH: Tough question! Jason Elam is one of my favorite kickers of all time…I love watching my former UNM teammates the NFL the most. My center, Ryan Cook is starting for the Dallas Cowboys, Rob Turner is with the Titans, Quincy Black with the Buccaneers & Byron Bell with the Panthers.
KT: Who would you like to see go to the National Championship this year?
KH: I would like to see some underdogs go. College football has become such a business, we often see the same teams repeat. I’d like some fresh schools out there.
KT: What are you doing these days, career wise?
KH: I speak at colleges and Universities, I write, I work with a lot of non-profits in women and childrens advocacy and am still kicking the pigskin.
KT: Did playing football teach you any lessons or values that you still hold to be true?
KH: Absolutely. It may sound cliché, but football taught me about the value of hard work, not giving up when things get tough, and to follow my passions.
KT: Would you say that playing college football gave you a boost into your career goals?
KH: Definitely. All of the values I learned from football have transferred into the “real” world.
KT: If you could describe college football in 3 words, which words would you choose?
KH: Passion. Intensity. Heart.
KT: What are some of your hobbies and interests?
KH: I love the outdoors- running and playing sports and I love being in the water, whether it’s the ocean, a lake, or a swimming pool.
KT: If UNM and LSU faced off in the National Championship, who do you think would win?
KH: If there is one thing I have learned in 16 years of ball it is that any given team on any given day can win or lose, no matter how unlikely it seems. I’d like to see UNM take the Mountain West first and then we can start talking about crashing the SEC.
KT: Do you prefer watching college or pro football more?
KH: I really like them both. College football Saturday &NFL Sunday is a great weekend!
KT: What is your favorite part of attending football games?
KH: Ha- I actually go a bit crazy attending games, because I always want to be down on the field!
Well there ya have it ladies, Katie loves the outdoors, is still obsessed with football and has faith in her former college team more than most of us have faith in the SEC!