Home Team Friday Off the Gridiron: Playing with the Boys

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – In football, players are told to play with a “next man up” mentality. However, one Bosse football player is challenging that motto.

For Bosse’s Jana Baker, it’s next woman up. After playing some football in middle school, Baker joined the Bulldogs this year, and hasn’t looked back.

“A lot of people react differently with it,” Baker said. “Like, they don’t believe me. When I first came out here, a lot of people thought I was manager or water girl.”

“When she came out, it was a surprise initially, but the energy that she came with, and the hard work, it just kind of fit right in and it clicked,” said Bosse coach Damarcus Ganaway.

And while you can occasionally find girls playing football in positions like kicker, baker is different. She’s wreaking havoc on Bosse’s defensive line.

“That would be one of the last positions that you’d think, but she took it in stride,” Ganaway said. “She came out day one and she just gravitated towards it. That’s what we thought was the best fit for her. Never complained once. She goes down there and works her butt off.”

Although the Bulldogs were initially hesitant about playing alongside driver, the team has fully embraced her.

“When I first started, it was real weird,” Baker said. “They just kind of looked at me weird, and they were real soft when I first came out. But now it’s just like a family. They’re all like big brothers to me. They treat me like everybody else.”

The team has made accommodations to allow Baker to play on the team, like giving her a separate locker room. However, the senior defensive linemen doesn’t want any special treatment. At the end of the day, she just wants to be known as a football player.

“I try to keep it the same as everybody else,” Baker said. “I don’t want to be treated any differently, or like I can’t do anything the boys can’t do.”

“At times, you know, not in a bad way, I forget that she is a girl at times, because in the mix of it, she blends right in with the rest of the guys,” Ganaway said. “She works just as hard as the rest of the guys. She’s here just like the rest of the guys.”

Baker has played in three games for the Bulldogs this year. And while her season is nearing its end, she hopes she can make a lasting impact on young girls everywhere.

“I hope that it pushes girls to play,” Baker said. “Because I know that there are some girls that would love to play football. I feel like if they see me out here, maybe they’ll want to come out here. It’ll give them a bigger push to come out.”

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