Wauzeka-Steuben girls tell football story in Hollywood
By Correne Martin
Girls playing high school football aren’t exactly unheard of, though they are pretty rare. This year, when Wauzeka-Steuben junior Celina Giddings and sophomore Megan Klema strapped on their helmets to save their small town’s football season, it caught plenty of attention outside their hometown.
First, WKBT-TV of La Crosse interviewed the pair and then their story went viral. But the two never expected the next phone call: executives from The Queen Latifah Show wanted to fly the girls out to Hollywood and tape a segment for the new talk show, hosted by the rapper-actress-hip hop feminist herself. On Sunday, Sept. 22, the girls flew from Chicago to Sony Pictures studios in Culver City, Calif., to share their story with Queen Latifah. They returned on Tuesday and the show aired on Thursday. (To see a clip, visit QueenLatifah.com and click on Videos.)
The story of the girls saving Wauzeka-Steuben’s football season started several weeks ago. The school’s football program had nine of its 19 players who were ineligible due to injuries and grades and the season was nearly canceled because of it. When Celina and Megan heard about this, they didn’t want their football season to be over before it started, so they joined the team.
“Friday nights in Wauzeka wouldn’t be the same without a football season,” said Megan, who was a cheerleader prior to becoming a running back and linebacker for the Hornets.
Celina, who splits her time between wide receiver and cornerback, said she was getting a lot of messages about joining the team. “I wasn’t really doing anything else, so I decided I was going to go for it,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to play football, and this was my chance to show people that I can actually play.”
Prior to their first game, some of the ineligible players were back on the field along with another new male recruit, KC Cooley. This gave the Hornets enough bodies to field a team. But the girls remained on the practice squad and both have seen playing time in games, making contributions where they can.
“I think the guys on the team started getting used to us,” Megan added. “They realized we helped make the team and that we just want to play football.”
Now well into their season under the direction of Coach AV Roth, Wauzeka-Steuben has yet to win a game, but the girls are optimistic this week’s Homecoming matchup with Cassville might be their first.
“We’ve been improving,” Celina said.
Both Celina and Megan have tried hard to not let the extra attention distract them from their dedication to their teammates. However, when the producers of The Queen Latifah Show called the school a couple weeks ago to research the story, it was something too big for them to ignore.
Administrator Mike Garrow pulled each of the girls aside and told them about the interesting phone call he received requesting the girls to accept the invitation to be flown to Hollywood for the show.
“I was like, ‘Who is feeding you lies?’” Megan recalled of the conversation.
Once their families approved, they were off on an all-expenses paid trip to hop on Queen Latifah’s “girl empowerment” train. Celina was accompanied by her grandma, Colleen Giddings, and Megan by her mom, Michelle Routt. Megan’s grandma and second cousin also paid to take the trip with them.
They stepped off the plane around 10 p.m. Sunday, and arrived at the luxurious Hotel Palomar around 11 p.m. On Monday, a driver picked up the group around 9:30 a.m. and drove them to the studio. They went through hair and make-up, discussed some of the scripted questions, met Queen Latifah’s other guests that day (Dylan McDermott, Pharrell and DJ MC Lyte), and then hit the set for the taping. They left the studio around 3:30 p.m. That evening, they spent their free time taking a tour of the city on a double-decker bus and got back to their hotel around 9 p.m. At 11:30 Tuesday, a driver took them back to LAX airport for their return to the Midwest.
When asked about their experience, Megan remarked, “It was awesome. It’s still kind of a shock. She was so down to earth. I was really nervous but, with her, it was like you could have a heart-to-heart conversation.”
“She talked about sports and hunting. She was just like us,” Celina added. “During the commercial breaks, she was giving us fist pounds and high fives and whispering to us. She was great, and so were the producers and everybody at the show.”
Both Celina and Megan plan to hit the grid-iron again next year and maybe help the team achieve more success. For now, their focus is on the rest of their season. They might be female participants in a predominantly male sport, but they also hope to set an example for young girls who aspire to be like them.
Celina said: “I hope we can inspire younger girls to do what they believe in.”
Celina is the daughter of Cerise Giddings and Megan is the daughter of Michelle Routt and Don Klema.