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Jana Meister making presence felt in women’s pro football

Jana Meister, a Marietta resident and wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Passion, runs a route during a Women’s Professional Alliance Football game. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Taneyhill)

MARIETTA — Jana Meister remembers one of the biggest catches of her football playing career.

The Pittsburgh Passion were playing Detroit, needing a win to advance to the 2019 championship game. Meister hauled in a touchdown pass with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Unfortunately for Meister, Detroit went on to win in overtime, and then any shot at redemption was put on hold as the 2020 and 2021 seasons were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meister, who lives in Marietta and works as an occupational therapist, has been playing for the Passion, a member of the Women’s Football Alliance, since 2016. She wears No. 85 and plays wide receiver, and a little cornerback on defense, too.

The Passion are back in action this season and are off to a 2-1 start.

“We just took a tough loss to Boston,” Meister said. “They’re one of the toughest teams we’ve faced this year. Boston, D.C. and Chicago are all up there with us as far as the top dogs in the league.”

Meister said they normally play nine or 10 games in a season, but this year’s regular season schedule was condensed to six games as a way to ease back into things after two years away. She’s hoping the Passion can make another deep run in the postseason.

“I’ve not a won a championship,” she said. “That’s the goal.”

Meister grew up in Chicago. She was a basketball standout, but also played football with her four brothers and their friends in their spare time. She learned how to be tough, quick.

“We would play full contact, with no pads,” she said. “I got kneed in the face and got knocked out one time. It was just part of our lifestyle.”

She played college basketball for Kankakee Community College and Iowa Wesleyan, and later got her master’s degree at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. That’s when the opportunity to play professional football randomly presented itself.

“I happened to be out one night picking up some things,” Meister recalled, “and some people saw me and said, ‘You look like an athlete. Do you enjoy football?’ They told me I should try out for the Passion. I went in for a tryout, and the coach, Teresa Conn, contacted me within a week. I walked in for practice and never left.”

For practices and games, Meister drives 2 1/2 hours from Marietta to Pittsburgh. Some days she’ll get home around 2 a.m., then have to get up a few hours later for work at Marietta Memorial Hospital or The Harmar Place. She admitted it can be hard, but it’s worth it.

Meister recently tried out for the USA Women’s National Team, which will compete this summer in Finland. Around 300 women within the WFA competed in the tryout held at IMG Academy in Florida. During four practices over a 48-hour span, players went through drills and worked with NFL position coaches. A few weeks later, Meister received a call from Cleveland Browns assistant coach Callie Brownson, Team USA’s head coach, telling her she was one of the 45 women chosen to play. Meister was one of just four wide receivers who made the cut.

“You had to show up and bring your A-game,” Meister said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to even be considered for Team USA. It’s a bonus if you get to play for a gold medal. After two years off from football, it’s a lot to be excited about.”

Team USA will report to Canton for training camp July 21-26. They leave for Finland on July 27.

Meister is excited to play under Brownson after playing against her during Brownson’s days with the D.C. Divas.

“She was a good player,” Meister said. “It’s incredible seeing what she brings to the NFL, her knowledge for the game, her intensity. There are women out there who definitely have a role in football and know their stuff. It’s cool.”

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