Thursday, May 19, 2011

Player Profile - Veronica "Vero" Narvaez, #76

Veronica earned a BS degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. 

She grew up in Rocksprings, Texas, a town of 1,300 residents.  Her high school graduation class was just  twenty-seven students.  By comparison, the University of Wisconsin has around 40,000 students.  The 9,000 seniors in her graduating class was nearly seven times as many people as the entire population of Rocksprings. 

In school, she was always good at numbers and math. Her math teacher,  Sam Jetton, had a remarkable influence on her life.  He encouraged her to develop her math skills.  When the school curriculum lacked an advance math course, he fought to create one, even though there were only three students.  He then encouraged her to pursue engineering and apply for a college scholarship.  She did, and won a full academic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin.

Mr. Jetton encouraged her again: "Once you move to Madison, you'll love it"  She did love it.  In spite of the culture shock, in spite of the difference in climate. Wisconsin is a true four-season state.  Veronica loved  picking apples in autumn and strawberries in summer. She remembers the snow, the cold winters.  She recalls looking out the windows at a beautiful sunny winter day, putting on a sweater and going out to enjoy the weather, and discovering the temperature was near zero and bitter cold.  Still, she insists she loved the weather. 

After graduation, she moved to Austin to be near her sister, Lupita.  In Austin she met Outlaws star, Tiffany James. She and Tiffany found they had some things in common, including having been involved in abusive relationships.  Tiffany suggested Veronica try out for the Outlaws. 

Veronica had never been active in sports.  She did attend games, was a flag girl in her high school band, and met some of the athletes at the University of Wisconsin.  Growing up on the ranch "there was lots of playing outside, animals, getting dirty, but no sports."

She had never played football, had no idea whether she'd like it, but she did try out, performed well in the tryouts, and made the team.  She found she is physically strong though she had never worked out in a gym or tried to build strength.  She says she and her siblings were always told they were "heavy handed" - they'd hit one another with a light touch and "Ow!That hurt!"  Aside from ganging up with her sisters against her brother, she doesn't know where her strength came from.  But her strength is there and serves her well when battling on the line of scrimmage.

Blocking takes a lot of strength.

She is quick, able to get down the field and make lead blocks to open the way for Outlaws runners.  If you've played football, you know how difficult open-field blocking can be.  It takes a combination of speed, skill, and knowledge of the game.  Veronica exhibits all of these.  The photos below aren't my best quality but show Vero keeping a defender from tackling Shadana Hurd.  When I showed this to Veronica, she was disappointed that she just made the block; she normally would take the defender completely out of the play.

I met Veronica at a Barnes and Noble store to interview her for this profile.  That was an apt selection for our meeting.  In an earlier post we talked about how complicated the game can be and how difficult it must be for new players to learn.  Vero's intellect is equal to the challenge.  Her hobbies go with her math background.  She loves logic puzzles of any sort, Sudoku, and crosswords.  She loves books.

She is very close to family.  She says she talks with her mother every day and credits family support for her success in making the transition from Rocksprings to Madison.  Her family is totally behind her playing football, although her mother won't watch "someone hitting my daughter." Veronica is the youngest of four children - with two sisters, Rita and Lupita, and brother Jose Juan. 

Vero smiles a lot, laughs a lot, has a wonderful sense of humor.   

At 5' 4" (well, 4 and 1/2 inches) tall and just 220 pounds Veronica is small for the line.  She says coaches tell the line to keep low; "I'm shorter so I have a head start on that."  She says she has never felt overwhelmed by giant opponents. 

She wears glasses.  She says contacts annoy her eyes.  She can't wear glasses during a game.  And can't see very well. Her limited sight might be considered a handicap. I asked whether contacts would improve her play, she smiles and, in a voice that suggests this is a very silly question, answers "How would I know; I've never worn glasses on the field." 

A big part of her attachment with the team is the camaraderie among the Outlaws.  "I quickly realized what a great group of women they are, always positive."  It's hard to not have a smile on you face when you're around them.

She says football is therapy.  "There are times when you have pent up emotion...being able to hit people and get out your stress/frustration/excess feelings gets it off your chest."  She concludes with a smile:  "Every woman should know the feeling of being able to push someone else bigger than you and know they can't hold you back."

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