Paterno makes right call, grants female kicker tryout

Though the official start to the college football season is about a month away, Penn State coach Joe Paterno has already lost one competition.

Speaking with an old friend in one of eight elevators crawling the 30 floors of Chicago’s Hyatt Regency McCormick Place last weekend, Paterno was asked how many grandchildren he now boasted.

“Ten,” JoePa replied, his eyes now lit up through his trademark Coke-bottle thick frames.

“Well, I’ve got ya,” the friend countered. “We’re on 11 now.”

On cue, the old pal pulled a photo of his newest grandchild from his suit coat pocket, just in before the elevator door opened. The two shared a handshake and went on with their days.

Paterno hit double digits in the grandchildren column this summer when his son, Jay and wife Kelley welcomed a little girl into the world, their third child.

And come fall, the man with more D-1A coaching victories than anyone else in history (327) might have another young woman to look after.

Meet Stephanie Weimer. A 2002 Serra Catholic High School graduate in McKeesport, Penn., Weimer has been granted a tryout from Paterno to possibly placekick this season for the Lions.

“She wrote me a letter, a nice letter,” Paterno said. “She said all she wanted was a tryout. So we’re going to take a look.”

Weimer, a 5-foot-4, 120-pounder who kicked six field goals last season in WPIAL Class A action, will attend practice the day after classes start at Penn State. If she’s got what it takes, “then we’ll start to worry about locker rooms and stuff” Paterno said. Until then, things will go on as planned for the Lions.

Embedded in that plan is a well rounded kicking core. Penn State has three place kickers on its roster including Robbie Gould, who started last season as a freshman and nailed 6 of 10 field goals ñ including a hit from 46 yards out ñ and was perfect in 29 extra point tries. But Paterno is giving Weimer a tryout anyway.

In an age where intense training and skill workshops make anything seem possible athletically, it should come to no surprise that women are appearing in sports predominantly occupied by men.

Weimer wouldn’t be the first to break the college football gender barrier. Duke, Colorado and Louisville have all carried females on its D-1 rosters, but none have ever suited up for a game.

Last season, Jackson State kicker Ashley Martin became the first female to score a point in Division 1-AA, kicking four extra points.

No female has ever kicked a field goal at the collegiate level, but Weimer ñ whose sister Alison is a goalkeeper for Penn State’s women’s soccer team ñ hopes to be the first. Her career long in high school as a three-year starter was 36 yards.

Paterno said he wouldn’t mind having a woman on his team. A father of two daughters and five granddaughters, however, his first concern is safety.

“I called her up and said, ‘You know, I have reservations about hurting you. I don’t want to put you out onto the field and have some 260-pounder run over you. If you were my daughter, I’d cringe,'” Paterno said.

Apparently, Weimer’s father is already getting into the protective stage. Reached at home, Robert Weimer declined to give any comment regarding his daughter’s tryout with the Lions. He also decided for Stephanie that she wouldn’t talk; he refused to give information on where she could be reached for an interview.

Should Stephanie make the team, Robert won’t be on the field to protect his daughter, but Joe Paterno will be there. And it will all have started with a legend doing the right thing in allowing a girl to try out with the boys.

Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at
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