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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Dr. Jen Welter, First Woman to Play Running Back in Men's Professional Football Our Coverage Sponsored by Cosmopolitan Dental, Official Dentist of Whom You Know

Dr. Jen Welter

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In terms of athletic resumes, few are as hard-hitting as that of little 5’2” linebacker Dr. Jen Welter, who made history as one of the first females to play in men's professional football. On January 24th, 2014 Welter signed with the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League to play Running Back. Due to the challenges of switching from playing with women to men, outdoor football to indoor football, and defense to offense, few people thought Welter would survive the Texas Revolution's Training camp. However, not only did she survive, Welter suited up for the preseason game against the North Texas Crunch on February 15, 2014. Welter rushed for 3 carries and -1 yard, and secured her spot in history as the first woman to play Running Back in men's professional football. 

Four days after Welter made history, on February 19th, the Revolution named Welter to the 2014 regular season roster. After making the 24 man roster, Welter was among the 20 players suited up for the February 21st game. Though she has not taken the field since the first two games, Welter remains an active member of the team as a member of the practice squad. 

Prior to playing men's professional football, Jen found her love for full-contact sports at Boston College, where she proudly represented Boston College all four years. In her fourth year playing rugby Jen was named the team MVP, and was recruited for the Under 23 National Team. Though Dr. Welter was an impressive rugby player, she was about ½ the size of the other props, and her dream to represent the USA in Rugby ended there. 

Not long after retiring from rugby, Jen was asked to tryout for the Mass Mutiny, an NFL rules, full contact, women’s football team. Though she feared her size might keep her from being selected, she had to try. Jen made the Mutiny and played her first two seasons of football with them. In her second season, Jen was named an All-American. 

After her second football season, Jen relocated to Dallas, TX. Jen played her first season in Dallas with the Dallas Dragons. Directly following that season, Welter left the Dragons and joined the Dallas Diamonds in fall of 2004. Jen recently completed her 10th season with the Dallas Diamonds, and in that time, she was named an All-American 7 times, bringing her career total to 8. In her tenure as a Diamond, Dr. Welter, or as her teammates say, the team won four World Championships (’04, ’05, ’06, & ’08), and played in, yet did not win the 2013 Championship. 

In addition to her success with the Dallas Diamonds, Dr. Welter has also played football at the International Level. In 2010, Jen was one of 45 women selected to represent the United States at the International Federation for American Football’s (IFAF) inaugural Women’s World Championship (WWC). Team USA traveled to Stockholm, Sweden where they swept the competition and won a gold medal. As a member of Team USA, Welter was so small that her teammates referred to her as “Kid”, but size didn’t stop the Kid from leading her team in tackles and being named to the All-World All-Star Team. In 2013, Jen was one of only 14 women from the 2010 Gold medal team, among the 45 selected to play at the 2nd IFAF WWC. In 2013, Team USA successfully defended the Gold Medal in Vantaa, Finland, and Jen won her 2nd Gold Medal. On October 21st, Jen was among the players honored at the White House by the Council on Women and Girls.

Throughout, her football career Jen pursued her education. Not only did 2013 bring Welter her 2nd Gold Medal, but it also brought her PhD in Psychology. Jen officially became Dr. Welter with the publication of her dissertation, The Wonderlic Classic Cognitive Ability Test as a measure of player selection and success for Quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Dr. Welter’s success in both football and education has been supported by her fitness career, which began in high school, when she first became certified to teach aerobics by AFAA. While getting her BS from Boston College in Marketing, her Masters in Sport Psychology and PhD in Psychology from Capella, and throughout her football playing career, Jen has always stayed true to her passion for health and fitness. Throughout her 17 year fitness career, Jen has taken certifications with AFAA, Reebok, NESTA, and NASM. Dr. Welter is currently an Expert rated CPT. Football, fitness, and psychology are interwoven in Dr. Welter’s endeavors in speaking, writing, consulting, and leadership. We are absolutely THRILLED to present Dr. Jen Welter as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Jen for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first sports memory, both playing and watching and how did each impact you? 
Dr. Jen Welter: I remember running in the school fun run. I finished so fast, my parents missed me finishing and got worried. When they found me sitting and waiting for them, they were amazed. My dad called me his “jock daughter.” I guess it is ingrained in who I am. 
I remember watching my dad race cars. What other people were scared of, he wasn’t. He raised me to approach challenges with calm confidence. 

Everyone from BC knows that the best football players come in small packages-have you met Doug Flutie and did you play catch with him? 
I did meet Doug Flutie in NYC on Radio Row prior to the Super Bowl. We did not have a chance to play catch. However, he did say he needed to recruit me to his flag game. 

Why did you want to attend Boston College, best college in the world, and why do you love it? 
BC has one of the best undergraduate business schools in the country, so that brought me in. Who wouldn’t love the amazing BOSTON COLLEGE ALUMNI, like you Peachy. 

How do you try to make the world excel, as in Ever to Excel? 
I look to excel past the perceived limitations set by others. My whole career had been about DOING what others said was not possible, like playing professional football! 

If you were going to bet with Regis on the next Holy War, what would you bet and why? 
Ouch, I am surrounded by Notre Dame Alumni down here in Dallas. Future Hall of Fame and Notre Dame receiver Tim Brown is the General Manager of my football team the Texas Revolution… so I may risk being cut by betting on the Holy War. But hey, I don’t know any BC Eagle who would back down from a challenge. I was inspired by your lipstick tan Peachy, so I will bet “sun tan tattoo swaps with Regis.” 

We always say anything boys can do girls can do better-how does being a female benefit you in your football career? 
Well, I am a typical female, I love to prove people wrong. So, the more they tell me I can’t, the harder I work to show them I can. 

What does it mean to you to make history as the first woman to play Running Back in men's professional football -the first in a contact position- and one of the first females to play in men's professional football? 
I feel like I am carrying the football for all the women who love this game. I am taking the hits, to open the field to those who come after me, and I am honored to do it. 

What do other girls need to do in order to qualify to play professional football? 
Honestly, work hard. I don’t approach the football field as the girl playing football. I approach the football field as a football player, and I work every single day to get better. 

What did you like best about playing in each of these contrasting situations: women to men, outdoor football to indoor football, and defense to offense? 
Haha well, it’s funny that you mention all those contrasts because those are all the changes I had to make when coming over to the men’s game. With the women, I almost never came off the field, so I loved leading with my actions. With the men, I play a lot less, and watch a lot more, and I love helping the guys by sharing what I see. Outdoor vs. Indoor, Outdoor is much bigger game, more people bigger field, more time to execute battle plans and game strategy. Indoor is fast and furious. The momentum and the score can change in one or two plays, so it is really fun. 

Would you like to play for the NFL or NFL Europe and if so for what team in what role? 
I would love to be involved with an NFL team. At that level, I would be best equipped to use my PhD and experience to help on the mental side of the game. However, obviously Bill Belichick is a master at creating places for undersized players on the Patriots. I also know a coach on the Giants, so you never know…. 

What would surprise most people about playing professional football?
That professional is not determined by the dollar value you are paid as a player, but rather, the mindset you bring to the game. 

What did you enjoy most during your Dallas Diamonds career and what did you learn from that experience? 
The diversity, family, and working towards a common purpose. The women whom I played with in my 10 year tenure with the Dallas Diamonds were some of the most amazing people I have ever known. We were a team comprised of women from every part of the country, with countless differences, and yet we came together as a family through our love for the game of football. Through our diversity we found our strength, and we were a dominant force in women’s football for a decade. 

Are you the only person playing professional football that also holds a PhD and what motivated you down that concurrent career path? 
I always hated feeling that, as a girl, we were given Or’s rather than And’s. Honestly, I felt it was implied that either a girl was an athlete, or smart, or pretty. Men who did it all were “Renaissance men,” but what about the women? I promised myself, that I would hit the books as hard as I did the football field, so ultimately I became the football playing Phd! 

Please tell us about The Wonderlic Classic Cognitive Ability Test as a measure of player selection and success for Quarterbacks in the National Football League. 
That was my dissertation, which was published in 2013. It was the most comprehensive research done to date looking at the NFL’s use of the Wonderlic (a general intelligence test) as a part of the player evaluation and selection process in the NFL. Looking specifically at QB’s I found that Wonderlic Scores are significantly related with earlier selection in the NFL draft. QB’s with higher Wonderlic Scores performed significantly lower in their rookie year, increased their performance scores faster, but were no different than QB’s with lower Wonderlic scores midway through their careers. In other words, teams are paying QB’s with higher Wonderlic scores more money, and they start off worse, improve faster, but are ultimately not better. My research made me wonder when the NFL is going to be intelligent enough to stop using the Wonderlic. 

What's the biggest mistake people make in terms of fitness and how can we be better at it? 
The all or nothing approach! If it is all or nothing, eventually everyone falls into the “nothing category.” Find small ways to incorporate fitness into your life everyday. Don’t punish yourself with fitness, reward yourself with being healthy! 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
My belief in a higher purpose drives me. What I have done and will do, is only as valuable as the people I can help and inspire. 

What are you proudest of and why? 
Finishing my PhD. There were so many times when I thought I might not be able to finish it, so to have been able to complete it, while playing football was pretty amazing. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
Goodness… so much Peachy. I am at a transition point in my career, so I am really excited to see what comes next. I have really been enjoying the media side of things lately, so I am pursuing those opportunities. 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
First RB to play in men’s professional football 
13 Seasons Women's Professional Football 
8 time All-American linebacker/ safety ('03, '05, '06, '07, '08, 09, 10, & 12)
4 time World Champion with the Dallas Diamonds ('04, '05, '06, & '08)
2 time Gold Medalist, Team USA IFAF Women's World Championships 2010 & 2013
All-World All-Star WWC 2010 

What one word best describes you and why? 
Two words: Gridiron Girl. Because I am all of the things that makes the gridiron great, but I am also very much a girl. 

What do you take your sense of identity from? 
I am not sure I take my identity from things, as much as I actively create my identity through the things that I do, the things I achieve, and the people I help. I am confident I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and I love to share that with others. 

What is your favorite place to be in 
Manhattan? The Highline 
Boston? Fenway Park & Landsdown Street 
Texas? Klyde Warren Park

What is your favorite shop in 
Manhattan? The Nike Flagship Store 
Boston? Love Newbury Street. Too many great spots to name one. 
Texas? Shops of Legacy. There are a bunch of really great places to walk around and shop. 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
I have to go with Mark Cuban. Just to have that man on my team for one day, I know I would have more business done and more valuable mentorship than most people get in a lifetime. 

What is your favorite drink? 
My Drink, the Gridiron Girl. Diva Tequila, on the rocks with lime. Even the toughest girl deserves her Diva Moment. 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
I had a guy spill a drink on me. When I asked him to apologize, his girlfriend started yelling at me. She eventually said she wanted to fight. I actually smiled, laughed, and told her, “I only hit people when I am getting paid, so empty your purse and let me see if it worth my time.” Her boyfriend literally picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and then carried her away. It was priceless. 

What is your favorite restaurant in 
Manhattan? Tao 
Boston? City Landing 
Texas? Dee Lincoln’s Steak and Burger Bar. The hospitality of Anthony Porcaro the GM is priceless. I always bring out-of-town guests to Dee Lincoln’s because I know they are in great hands with Anthony. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Sex and the City!!! 
Boston? Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series and Created a new Blueprint for Winning 
Texas? Boys will be Boys, a book chronicling the Cowboys in the 90’s 

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
I would love to be Oprah for a day. She is an everything woman and has inspired and helped countless people. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
The Empire State Building. I’ve been short my whole life, why not? 
Boston? The Big Dig! It was one of the most impressive Boston projects ever, and though it took a long time, it is impressive, historic, and it enhances the landscape! 
Texas? The Allen event center… after all I did make history there. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
Enjoying the SuperBowl with my Team USA teammates. 
And Boston? I actually ran the Boston half marathon, so that was pretty amazing. 
And Texas? Football! Won a Championship with the Dallas Diamonds and made history with the Texas Revolution

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Manhattan: Catch a show on Broadway 
Boston? Shopping and People watching on Newbury Street 
Texas? SXSW in Austin! 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Zach Snyder the writer/ director of 300. I want to have my story become a movie and I like his truth and vision in storytelling 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
When I was in High School, my parents took my sister and I to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. It was magical. Believe it or not, I know all the songs. I have seen Phantom 3 times, and I love it more each time. 
Boston? I saw Dracula the ballet. It was amazing! My first Ballet. 
Texas? Austin City Limits 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
 I am committed to being a positive female role model. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in 
Overrated: Wall Street 
Underrated Ground Zero 

Overrated: Lobster…. The lobster in Florida is much better. No claws but bigger tails. Also the Sunshine brings out the flavor! 
Underrated: It is such a great city to walk around and explore. Everything is close and connected. It’s refreshing. 

Overrated: Connection & Public Transportation Things are very pocketed in Dallas. You have to have a destination. There is very little wandering and discovering new places and shopping. Public transportation does little to enhance an out-of-towner’s ability to experience the city 
Underrated: The hospitality & diversity. People in Texas are very warm and welcoming, yet don’t expect them all to be “Texans” because Dallas is actually rather diverse. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
Feeling and Looking your best! Who doesn’t like the secrets to a fabulous life? 

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
Not yet, but I am on it. 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I love bringing the best out in people! I love to paint and create beauty in my space. When I am not on the football field, I enjoy shopping, dancing, and being silly with my friends. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 
Website: Email: 
Twitter: @jwelter47 Facebook: DrJenWelter Instagram:welter47

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