Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- Cheering for the St. Scholastica football team in 2011 simply wasn't enough for Cloquet native Laura Bakken, so this year she decided to become one of the players.
"I was really nervous that they wouldn't be receptive, but the response I got from the coaches and my teammates was incredible and overwhelming," Bakken said on the third day of practice. "They helped me out in so many ways that I didn't think they would, but they definitely did."
By joining the team this season, Bakken becomes the first female player in St. Scholastica football's five-year history. She said the earliest thought of playing football came to her in 8th grade, but that being a cheerleader for the Saints last year made her recognize she wanted to make it a reality.
"I've always cheered because I loved the sport," Bakken said of football. "I wanted to get close to the sport and be right there in the action. I remember standing on the sidelines and thinking that it wasn't quite close enough. I wanted to be closer. I wanted to be right in the action."
The first step for Bakken toward her goal was a conversation with St. Scholastica head coach Greg Carlson.
"Laura came out last January and asked to join our team," Carlson said. "She went through our offseason conditioning program and our spring practices, so she's out here today working on her kicking skills."
Bakken is officially rostered as a 5-foot-8 placekicker for the Saints, a position on the team that she hopes can turn in game experience on the collegiate level.
"Eventually in my career, I'd really like to play in a game," Bakken said. "I really just want to work on my ability and get to be the best player I can be, whether that's sitting on the bench or making a field goal. I'd like it to be the second one."
The former Lumberjack said she's been blown away by the support of both her coaches and her teammates, and she hopes that more women follow in her footsteps.
"It's a dream. It really is a dream," Bakken said. "If you have the love, do it. That's what I would say."