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Nebraska Woman Makes Football Debut

April 15, 2000

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ KaLena Barnes doesn’t want to be known as a pioneer, just a football player.

The sprinter on the Nebraska women’s track team made her football debut Saturday with a 35-yard punt in the Cornhuskers’ spring game. The kick wasn’t much for hang time and rolled most of the distance it traveled, but it looked just fine to Barnes.

``This was not about me doing this for anybody but KaLena,″ she said. ``It’s something that I really wanted to do and if it motivates people to do stuff that’s great. But my reasons for doing this were strictly personal.″

Barnes, listed as ``Beanie″ on the roster, is the first woman to work out with Nebraska’s football team. She’s not sure what inspired her, but she decided last fall she wanted to play football. She began working on place kicks and punts last fall and worked out with the team throughout spring drills.

Barnes, 5-foot-4 senior from Ontario, Calif., got the call with nine minutes left in the game on a 4th-and-29 from the 21-yard line. She got off an end-over-end kick before defensive back Keyou Craver had a chance to block it.

``I was wondering how I was going to field the ball because I couldn’t feel my hands,″ Barnes said. ``I thought I’d be nervous or something but I really wasn’t. I was just like OK. I got the ball off.″

The kick drew one of the loudest cheers of the day from the crowd of 22,415 that braved the 40-degree, gray afternoon to watch the game. Barnes said she and Craver got a good laugh after he grabbed her and spun her a little.

``I just told him ’Watch it!‴

Barnes said she received nothing but support from her teammates, who helped her work out before spring practice started in March. She kept a low profile during spring practice, turning down interview requests until Saturday.

``I wanted to make things go as smoothly for me as possible. Keep in mind I wanted to be like any other guy on the team. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of me being a female,″ she said.

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