(USA TODAY) -- Regardless of how her tryout goes, Lauren Silberman will make history Sunday at the NFL Regional Scouting Combine in Florham Park, N.J.
The 28-year-old New York City resident will become the first female to participate in the weekend event, which features local players who weren't invited to last week's showcase in Indianapolis. Despite having no game experience at any level, the former club soccer player at the University of Wisconsin will try to advance to the Super Regional Combine next month in Dallas as a place-kicker. It's goal she chose to pursue after a video surfaced of her kicking NFL length field goals at an exhibition event.
The regional combine won't be Silberman's first foray into professional sports. As a grad student at MIT, she wrote her Master's thesis on how college and pro athletes can use video games to improve their athletic performance. She built upon the results of the study to start her own consulting firm, Double Play Media. She wouldn't reveal the longest field goal she has made, but Silberman spoke about her ambition to become the first female NFL player with USA TODAY Sports:
What led to your decision to register for the regional combine?
I saw the opportunity and had to go for it. I love football, new experiences, and wanted to take the chance to learn more about the training process that leads to a successful NFL career. It was a bit of a surprise to some but mostly just an outcry of "That's my girl! (and) "You go, Silbs!" ... My family and friends seem to be getting a kick out of this.
You were a club soccer player at Wisconsin. What is your background in football place-kicking?
I played varsity soccer and lacrosse through high school. I've always been a big tennis and basketball player, too. I don't think there is a sport I don't like. My background in football place-kicking is quite limited, although I'm getting significantly better each day that I work with my great coach. I've been training in a few different locations in New Jersey since I heard I had the tryout. Some days we'll be inside at a turf facility and other days we'll have to be outside because we don't have access to the turf.
I've been devoting a couple of hours a day whenever I can. It's been a unique challenge juggling my business and the recent media attention that I've received. I've been working with coach Ricky Krautman (a former Division 1 kicker at Syracuse). He's so positive about my potential pre-training camp time and I can see how much I'm improving my technique each day.
How much did being the first woman in this event factor into your decision?
I didn't think about my gender when I registered. I just wanted to go out and compete with the best, learn more about the combine process, and, above all, have fun. I am glad that it has focused attention on increasing opportunities for women and am so proud to be able to kick through this open door! I think the NFL should be applauded for giving women a chance. I hope my willingness to put myself out there inspires others to participate as athletes at this level.
What are the most striking insights you've learned in your thesis and professional work regarding athletes and video games? Have you worked with any big names?
My clients are confidential, but football, basketball and soccer players have been my primary client base. The ability to help players maximize their on-field play through video game play is incredibly exciting. It has been amazing to see how much they learn from virtually playing as their own avatars. The games naturally allow players to play through a close simulation and virtually vary all of the conditions to closely mimic what may occur on a physical field. It motivates and informs the real play and that's a truly unique dynamic.
Who is your favorite NFL team?
The team that takes me!
Favorite NFL kicker?
Chris Kluwe (the outspoken Minnesota Viking is technically a punter), because he's a huge gamer and I love his public stance on so many issues.
Favorite video games?
On my Xbox, I obviously love the big sport titles - Madden, NBA2k, FIFA Soccer, NHL 13, and MLB2K. Beyond sports, for a great game that you can also learn so much from, check out Kurt Squire's research on Civilization. I grew up primarily playing Super Nintendo. My favorites were Aladdin, Super Mario World, and Donkey Kong, because there was always a new challenge and it was fun to try to play through the whole game at one time without losing your avatar's life.
Which team do you select when playing Madden?
I'm a D.C. native, so this season, in Madden, I went with my hometown Redskins.
You mentioned previously that regardless of how the tryout goes, you hope to contribute to and strengthen the league. If not as a player, what would your ideal role be in doing that?
I couldn't think of a better role than inspiring young women and others to go for their dreams no matter how distant. I love hearing from all of the coaches of professional athletic teams who have learned about my work and want to allow me to work alongside them to execute a virtual training plan with their team. So, I guess my dream is to get paid to play virtual or real football. Can you blame me?