A Rebel....In More Ways Than One

Ozaukee Press staff

There are two sides to eighth-grader Natasha Klemann.

“She is a very sweet kid, genuine, down-to-earth and kind-hearted,” her mother Keri said.

“But you take her out on the football field, she will take you out in a heartbeat.”

Natasha has been a member of the Saukville Rebels since fifth grade.

She grew up playing football with neighbors in a nearby park, and talked to her parents about joining the Rebels.

Her mother had one rule when she expressed interest.

“My response to her was you can do whatever you want to do, that’s fine. I don’t want you to play football because you’re a girl, I want to you to play football because you want to play football,” she said.

That wasn’t in question for Natasha. But the glory heaped upon quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers wasn’t what she was seeking.

“I think I like to hit people and block them,” she said.

Her teammates needed a little convincing of her passion but came around.

“At first they weren’t super accepting, but after they realized I wasn’t messing around, they were more accepting,” she said.

Rebels coaches supported her from the start.

“The coaches are fantastic, and they always have been. Day one when I signed her up, Coach Kevin (Thate) came up to me and said, ‘If anybody gives you grief, let me know,’” her mother said. “They were very up front about it.”

They’ve never had an issue, Keri said. While a handful of parents were critical, she said she doesn’t care.

“All of the parents and kids on the team have always been great. She’s gone to school with these kids since kindergarten,” she said. “It’s a great group of kids and parents.”

Natasha had already played flag football in summer school with boys.

“After a short period of time, she was one of the guys,” her mother said.

Keri was the perfect inspiration for Natasha. She played tight end in middle school in Sheboygan.

“I was a violent kid,” she said.

Her father did not play football.

“It’s a little backwards,” Natasha said with a laugh.

Besides her parents and coaches, Natasha said her friends have supported her. One wears her jersey to each game.

Eighth-grade coach and president of the Saukville Rebels Wayne Moeller has the same analysis of Natasha’s character as of her mother.

“Natasha is a very nice young lady, who without pads on you would never suspect plays football like she does. On the football field though, she isn’t looked at as a girl — just a Rebel,” he said.

Moeller said Natasha isn’t the first girl he has ever coached. Past players Sarah Carnini and Mikayla Hilton both played offensive and defensive line.

Natasha, he said, proved herself quickly at guard and defensive tackle.

“It didn’t take long for her teammates to accept that they had a girl on the team once they saw that ‘Tosh’ was all business when the pads went on,” Moeller said. “She quickly made them see that she fit right in and through the last few years has really made an impact on her team.”

Opposing players find themselves adjusting as well. A few times, Natasha said they have gone easy on her, but their coaches yelled at them so then they went full speed.

Like many players, Natasha was nervous before her first game.

“I was freaking out,” she said.

And, like many players, after that first contact, she settled down.

“It was just like practice,” she said.

For Moeller, it isn’t a novelty to have Natasha on the field, it’s an advantage. She can play.

“Coaching her this season, I would say her strengths are her technique and her strength,” he said. “She is one of our best offensive linemen and is actually relied on to pull and do some other things up front for us. She’s a pleasure to coach as well, asking questions when she needs to but also picking up on new techniques quickly.”

Natasha’s skill has kept her on the offensive line for much of the season, limiting her time on defense.

“That may be changing though, as we head into conference play this week and look to win another conference title and possibly an AAYFL (All American Youth Football League) title.”

Natasha wouldn’t mind playing more defense. Her favorite player is the Green Bay Packers star pass rusher Clay Matthews. She tried to wear his No. 52, but was told she couldn’t because of her position. So she’s got No. 62.

Her favorite play so far in her career came on defense against Whitefish Bay in fifth grade.

“They had two guys blocking me and I got straight through them and got a sack,” she said.

She has found that she enjoys the trenches on offense as well.

“I like that we get to have contact on every play,” she said. “I like that we have a certain thing to do for everything to work.”

Her favorite play is a screen pass. She gets to pop the defensive lineman in front of her and then head down field and find some more opponents to take out.

Line is a logical place for her to play. She said she was always too big to carry the ball. Now at 5 feet 8 inches tall, she is taller than some of her fellow linemen.

“We have a lot of small guys but a lot of them are really hard hitters,” she said.

Keri said Natasha hasn’t had any serious injuries, just a twisted ankle, injured thumb or a karate chop to the neck that linemen tend to receive.

Football isn’t Natasha’s only athletic interest. She plays volleyball — not surprisingly, her favorite position is the center of the front row for blocking — throws shot put and runs hurdles and relay races in track and field and plans to play basketball.

Next fall, she will have a decision to make since volleyball and football are held during the same season.

While some girls do play high school football, many are kickers. Natasha is not interested in that.

“I would never be a kicker. That’s just boring,” she said.

Someday, she said, it “would be really cool” to coach linemen.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login