FORWARD PROGRESS: Fueled by women before her, Kristin Farris breaking into football ranks

Behind the scenes, Bemidji State junior Kristin Farris has been involved with BSU football, Clearbrook-Gonvick football and the BSU athletics media relations office as she advances her own professional career in the sport she loves. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- If backyard football against four older brothers taught Kristin Farris anything, it wasn’t that the game was built exclusively for boys.

She learned that she belonged.

“I grew up on a farm my whole life, so getting dirty, getting pushed around wasn’t anything new to me,” Farris said. “It’s how I learned about the game. With that and with watching football with my brothers and my dad, that’s where everything started.”

And ever since, she hasn’t stopped.

Farris has forged a path for herself in football, which has included coaching at Clearbrook-Gonvick High School in 2019 and interning with the Bemidji State program. Clearly, being a woman hasn’t slowed her down.


“I see (women) doing things and I’m like, ‘If they could get there, I can get there, too,’” Farris said. “It’s definitely a big motivator now that people are breaking through all these walls, and I guess you could say shattering the glass ceiling.”

There are obstacles to overcome as a minority in a male-dominated sport. Farris noted that she’ll get looks from opponents or strangers that seem to say, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” But that’s not the case on her own sideline.

“All the coaches are super helpful with everything,” she said. “If I have any questions or want to learn anything more, they’re always willing to help out. (BSU Associate Athletics Director for Communications and Marketing) Brad Folkestad has been a huge part of keeping me going. He’s always got a word of encouragement whenever I don’t feel confident in something. He’s always the one like, ‘I know you can do it. I know what you’re capable of.’”

Farris, a Goodridge native and junior at Bemidji State, is double-majoring in sport management and mass communication with a certificate in coaching football. She also works in the athletic media relations department as a student assistant.

With the Bears, Farris fulfilled her coaching practicum by assisting with the offensive and defensive lines. With the Beavers, she’s a jack-of-all trades between graphic design, tracking stats, filming practices and helping out on recruiting days.

“Coming into college, I didn’t really know what I was going to do,” said Farris, who originally enrolled as a chemistry major. “… I learned how much more is possible (in sports). When I first switched my major, everyone said that there’s nothing available. But now I’m double-majoring, and I can do pretty much anything within sports or media. I got more of a view of what I can do with my life.”

‘A connection person’

Ultimately, Farris wants to work her way into the scouting field in the NFL.

She’s taken tangible steps toward her goal, too, having met with Kelly Kleine, a Minnesota Vikings’ college scout and the player personnel manager. Additionally, Farris has joined GALvanize, an organization founded by NFL on FOX reporter Laura Okmin to train and mentor young women entering the sports world.


“Laura Okmin is a huge (inspiration),” Farris said. “Kelly Kleine is another one, at least in the sports world. … She’s one of my biggest inspirations that way.”

With GALvanize, Farris will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., next month -- coronavirus permitting -- to participate in the Jaguars rookie minicamp. She will be paired with an NFL rookie as both learn to work with and in the media around the NFL.

But she’s getting a head start on that, too. Farris participated in GALvanize’s virtual webinar on Tuesday, where she and others networked, empowered and gained insight from Jaguars manager of public relations Alex Brooks.

“It was really, really cool. I didn’t know what to expect going in,” Farris said of the two-hour Zoom call. “We got to ask (Brooks) questions about being in media relations and working in the NFL, kind of how he got there.”

And building relationships is right in Farris’ wheelhouse.

“I enjoy when I can sit down and can have a conversation with a player or a coach and make those connections,” she said. “I’m definitely a connection person.”


Farris knows she has a long way to go to reach her dream. But she’s already come a long way from her backyard on the farm.

“The end of middle school and high school came along,” Farris said, “and I started getting more interested in football, actually knowing what’s going on. When I got (to Bemidji), that’s when everything blew up.”

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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