As Southern Oregon University students settle into their winter term routine, senior Devon Walker is gearing up to try out for the National Women’s Tackle Football Team in Florida this week. Having just started playing competitive tackle football last year, this former SOU soccer player now has a chance to join an elite team.
In preparation for the tryouts Walker felt nervous and unsure of what to expect. “I feel like I haven’t slept at all,” said Walker. She found out that she would be trying out for the National Women’s Tackle Football team only a couple months ago leaving a short amount of time to train and prepare for such a big feat.
Around the middle of her first season last year, Walker overheard another member talking about the Women’s National Tackle Football tryouts. The idea of trying out for a national team sparked her interest. “My dad mostly started looking into it and looking up past videos and the past team,” she said.
Walker showed interest at first, as the tryouts were open to anyone, but became nervous when she discovered the cost to tryout. Though she didn’t want to ask for money, she became determined to make it to tryouts in Florida.
“Let me see if I can take it that far. I want to go as far as I possibly can. You don’t know what is going to come up later in life, so take the opportunity while you can,” she said.
She has the support of her family, co-workers, coaches and teammates as she embarks on her journey to tryout for the National Women’s Tackle Football Team. “I’m excited and all for it. I love that she is pursuing every opportunity in football,” said Walker’s current coach Rockne Demello.
Walker started a GoFundMe account with a goal of $2,200. Walker’s manager at Northwest Pizza also assisted in raising money for her by holding fundraising events at the restaurant. With the help from family, friends and teammates Walker reached her goal. “It was a really awesome feeling to know that people care about my passion and goals,” she said.
Walker started playing women’s tackle football when her soccer career as a goalkeeper ended at SOU due to her completing her years of eligibility on the field. Initially she found herself at a loss. “I played soccer since I was five. It’s been my sport my whole entire life,” expressed Walker.
Unsure of what to pursue next she was by encouraged by her family to play soccer for co-ed city league teams. However, she quickly stopped playing when she felt a lack of competitiveness on the field. Soccer was over for her but Walker was keeping her sights open for something new. “I have to have a goal or some activity to keep me in shape,” she said.
She found her new sport when a group of women walked into Sports Authority, where she worked just last year, looking for football gear. She started a conversation with the women and found out that they played for a women’s tackle football team.
Soon after Walker joined a team based out of Medford known as the Lady Gades, playing as the team’s wide receiver and punter. After starting the sport just last year Walker quickly found her way to the top. According to HostedSports, she’s ranked number one on her team in yards of receiving, with 649 yards. She’s ranked number one in kickoff returns, punt returns, and touchdowns, with a total of six touchdowns. “Everyday she kept surprising us,” said Demello. “The best part of her is she wants more knowledge.”
Now, a year later Walker feels as though she has found her new passion. “It’s really crazy for me to say but I think I love playing football more than I love playing soccer.”
Tryouts are ten days long consisting of two separate tryouts followed by three days of scrimmage games open to anyone. Walker will find out if she made the team in February. If she makes the team she will attend a week long camp and compete in the championships in Canada over the summer. “I don’t want to let anyone down,” said Walker. “A lot of people have supported me with this and I want to come back with good news.”