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Southmoreland senior youngest member of women's football team

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Paige Bowman

Paige Bowman first became attracted to women's professional football when she was quite young, attending a Pittsburgh Passion game when she was about 12 years old.

Bowman liked what she saw.

Eventually, her cousin Shelby Horak joined the Passion and Bowman's interest was piqued.

“I felt, ‘This is really cool,'” Bowman recalled. “When Shelby got involved with it. I wanted to get involved. She told me when the tryouts were and I went and got in.”

Bowman, 17, is the youngest member of this year's Passion team, where the average age usually falls somewhere between 25-35. As of now she's penciled in as an offensive linemen, either at tackle or guard.

“It's a lot of hard work,” Bowman said. “Friday and Saturday we have practices from 8-11 (p.m.). Those are the days where the next day I'm extremely sore.”

But she is quick to say she is enjoying the experience.

“It's a lot of fun,” Bowman said

To get a chance to be a member of the Passion, Bowman had to first try out, a process that began in August.

Apparently, it went well.

“I got an email that said I was accepted before the second tryout even happened,” Bowman said. That initial tryout was very thorough, exploring all aspects of a potential Passion player's ability such as running and catching, then at the end there was a mile-run.

Thus far, Bowman has made a good impression on coach Teresa Conn, who has been involved with the Passion since the team's inception in 2002.

“She showed a lot of the strong qualities we are looking for,” Conn said of Bowman. “Not only do I believe she will be a tremendous football player, but she seemed like a really good person to represent our team and our values. I'm very impressed. She's jumped in with both feet. She's very accountable, very coachable. She has a passion for the game. She'll represent the Passion well with her character and talent.”

The coach added Bowman's youth among several older teammates has not been a detriment at all.

“She fits right in,” Conn said. “You wouldn't know how young she is. She's a great teammate. We're thrilled to have her. She's going to have a great football career.”

The Passion is one of 31 teams in the Independent Women's Football League. The team begins its season April 12 in North Carolina against the Carolina Phoenix, but a pair of scrimmages are scheduled for this month.

It's too early to determine if Bowman will start or just how much playing time she'll receive.

Conn stressed that a player's rookie year can involve a rough transition

“Your first year is your toughest year,” Conn said. “Most of our girls have played athletics, but when it comes to playing football, you have headaches, sore neck, bruises everywhere. There's something different about tackling every night. I think there's a learning experience dealing with physical tools and the time commitment that it takes.”

It has taken quite a commitment for Bowman. Along with her responsibilities as a high school student, she is a firefighter with the East Huntingdon Volunteer Fire Department, works at the Mt. Pleasant Taco Bell and also plans to join the track team this year to participate in throwing events. She was a member of the Southmoreland soccer team in the fall.

Bowman said her parents — Donald and Pamela Bowman — have taken a liking to the fact their daughter is a football player.

“They're glad I'm involved in it,” Bowman said. “My dad is super excited. I think he's only missed one of my practices.”

She's received her first taste of football and likes it, even to the point where this is something Bowman may be involved in for awhile.

“It's nice to be a part of something bigger than just Southmoreland,” she said.

Upon graduation, Bowman hopes to attend Westmoreland County Community College to study fire science technology.

As for now, she's ready to start her football career.

“I'm really nervous,” Bowman admitted. “I'm glad we have two scrimmages prior to that game. That will give me a better feel for other teams. I feel the Pittsburgh Passion. I feel their hits, I feel the way they play, but once we get into that first scrimmage I'm going to feel other teams, how they play, how we'll have to adjust to them.”

She's received a lot of feedback from people telling her they're going to be attending Passion games.

“If a lot of people do come, I hope they're not disappointed in what they see.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.