Kan. woman prepares to leave football career business victoriaadvocate.com r gasquet tennis

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) – From first glance, Danilynn Welniak looks the part of a stereotypical young women. Designer jeans. Earrings. High heels. Long blonde hair. It’s all there. But examine the 22-year-old a little more carefully and something else is there. Faint bruises on the arms. Some signature purple and black bracelets. And then the kicker comes. A 2008 Super Bowl ring that catches the eye ball from any distance.The ginormous rock on Welniak’s right hand is her life. Or has been for the past five years. The recent Oklahoma State University graduate and now sports reporter for KWCH Channel 12, a CBS affiliate in Kansas, is just finishing up her playing career as a professional football player for the Dallas Diamonds."I easily get asked about my Super Bowl ring about three times a day," Welniak said.Welniak, who plays professional women’s football in the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance) is in her fifth and final season with the Dallas Diamonds. The wide receiver, who has a rich and cultured background with the sport, said she never imagined herself playing professional football, but when the opportunity presented itself, she had to take it."I got into it by my friends cousin played for the team back in 2007 and came out to one of my softball games (in high school) and apparently saw something and brought the offensive coordinator out to a powder puff football game of mine. And they asked me to come tryout," Welniak said. "And I went out there and I fell in love with it. The offensive coordinator said you could be a play maker for us, but he said think about college first."Welniak, who was just finishing up her senior year of high school, had some options. The two-sport athlete, varsity volleyball and softball, had a full ride to the University of Hawaii for academic purposes on her plate. But then came along the chance to try something new. Football."I seriously contemplated it," Welniak said. "Mom and I talked about it and Hawaii will always be there, the opportunity to be an athlete wont. Then we’re both like let’s do this. Let’s play some football."That’s how Welniak’s gridiron journey began. She said what also factored into the decision-making process was her upbringing and that her dad and stepfather both were heavily involved with the sport."My real dad played linebacker for the University of Nebraska and my stepdad played for the Dallas Cowboys, so I’ve kind of grown up around football and I’ve always loved it," she explained. "You know being a girl and being in Texas, the opportunity to play football is extremely slim. And if you are going to play, you’re probably a kicker. So when this opportunity came around and they are like you can play with women, I had to seize it. I had to be able to understand it like my dad and stepdad understood it."Coming into the sport (which is pretty much like the NFL, tackling, pads, just a smaller football) with a solid knowledge base and athletic ability gave Welniak a little bit of an edge. It also seemed to wipe off the initial struggles that many athletes go through during their rookie season.In her first season with the Dallas Diamonds in 2007, the wide receiver was the only rookie to start on offense and was named the 2007 Rookie of the Year for the league."Actually funny thing is, I tell them (my teammates) I came hoping I’d make the practice squad and maybe third string so I can learn," Welniak explained. "But now I’m a three-time Pro Bowler and championship starting receiver. It’s fun. I came to learn, original plan, but now it’s a passion."Said Walt Garrison, Welniak’s stepfather who played for the Cowboys from 1966 till 1974: "The first time I saw her I said my gosh, she’s fast and can catch a football. She plays hard, she plays good."Jumping straight into stardom, however, didn’t happen overnight. Welniak said she did go through some hard times during her first season."The first time I ever got truly hit was what they do when they break you in is they put you at running back," she said. "They put me at running back because they wanted to see me get hit and see if I would get back up. One of the linebackers, her name is KB Bowman and she freaking was crazy and she’s screaming. I’m thinking I’m going to die. Anyway, I hit the hole and she literally lays me out and I couldn’t breathe for 10 seconds or a minute cause I’m trotting back to the huddle and making heaving sounds and they are like, ‘You’re okay?’ My coach is like, ‘Good job Dani. You stood back up. That’s all I wanted to see.’ I thought I hope nobody hits me like that ever again. And nobody has."She mentioned that learning the play book and the logistics of the game also took getting used to. She said the game moved so fast for her, but now with knowing everything, football is a lot slower going.In her second year with the team in 2008 a few games into the season Welniak broke her Fibula and was out for five weeks. She said being away from the sport was one of the best and biggest challenges she has ever faced."I grew mentally, spiritual, emotional," she said. "I couldn’t play and I knew I couldn’t take advantage of when I could play when I came back."That season she said she rehabbed really hard and was able to make it back for the playoffs and start in the Super Bowl in their 35-29 sudden death win over Chicago in Chicago."She runs good routes, she’s got a lot of guts, she wants to win," Garrison said. "And that’s something you can’t teach someone. The will to win."What makes this season, which runs from April till June or July, depending if you make it to post season, a little different for Welniak is the fact that since she moved to Dodge in June, she’s had to travel back to Dallas just about each weekend for games and such."It’s been hard, because I feel away from my team, especially with me being captain this season," she explained.Welniak said since she is away from the team she studies playbook, watches film online and works out on her own during the week when she isn’t working at the television station.Landing the job in Dodge was the reason why this year is No. 89’s last season. She said she is ready to start a new chapter in her life."It’s bittersweet," Welniak said. "I’m starting this incredible sports reporter job, following my dream of what I really want to do, but leaving behind a passion and something that has opened up a lot of doors for me."___Information from: The Dodge City Globe, http://www.dodgeglobe.com