Playing Through

The Austin Outlaws' Shadana Hurd averages 13 yards per carry, but that doesn't exclude her playing a second position on the field

Shadana Hurd
Shadana Hurd (Photo by MaryLou Spence)

Running back/wide receiver Shadana Hurd averages 13 yards per carry, cites her mom as her greatest influence, and enjoys a hearty meal. So why didn't Campbell's Soup pick her as their newest spokeswoman? Maybe, like many, they consider a goal to perfect two positions just showing off. Donovan McNabb only excels at one position, after all. Fortunately for Hurd, the Austin Outlaws – Austin's nonprofit, professional women's tackle football team – has been encouraging just that since their inception in 2000.

According to the team's general manager and offensive line(wo)man, Lily Messina, the players raise $50,000 for each season through sponsorships, they share one 55-seat charter bus, and each player buys all her own equipment. The Outlaws also boast a dedicated, but relatively small, coaching staff. This places a lot of responsibility on the players to develop their game and work together to train the rookies, who make up about half of their 2008 roster.

Messina explains, "Being down a few coaches has forced us, as players, to ... work together a lot more and take much more responsibility in figuring out how we're going to move the ball down the field." To Messina's point, the team currently has three veteran players who regularly play both sides of the ball. The team's defensive coordinator, Narlen Baker, agrees that this willingness to learn secondary positions helps the team place as much experience as possible into every play, while building well-rounded players who can fill in where the team needs it.

Hurd (previously of the University of Texas at San Antonio's track team and a three-year Outlaws veteran) constitutes no exception. In the Outlaws game on May 10, against the New Orleans Blaze, Hurd ran 274 yards for five touchdowns. While her speed makes her a natural running back, she readily runs passing plays, as well. "Iron women are what we call them," Hurd states, "and [they] definitely change the game. Everyone knows two positions on the team, just in case. Sometimes I get to run as receiver. ... We're all ready to step up wherever needed."

This Saturday, May 24, the Outlaws take on the Houston Cyclones in their second home game of the season. Tied for first place in the National Women's Football Association, both teams will do whatever it takes to get a win.

Thomas Hackett returns June 6. For comments and to submit story ideas, e-mail playingthrough@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Outlaws, Shadana Hurd, Lily Messina, New Orleans Blaze

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