In a season that saw a beleaguered and maligned Minnesota Valkyrie franchise take a step backward, there was one rookie that offered a glimmer of hope for the future; quarterback Kari Janes. The 23 year-old quarterback played with great heart and determination as she led one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the Legends Football League.
Standing at 5’7” and a lean 135 pounds, Janes was stoic during a difficult 0-3 start that saw the Valkyries outscored by a 103-20 margin. Despite a 37.5 completion percentage, along with seven interceptions, Janes looks very comfortable lined up behind center.
Like many of the competitors in the Legends Football League, Janes brings an athletic background to the gridiron. With a soccer background, she has the powerful legs and the endurance to keep up with the most vicious defenders in the league. The endurance and tenacity that she brings to the gridiron of the LFL was cultivated from her performances on the soccer field.
Having played with the Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears, she had several highlights in her career. From contributing two goals in a win over rival Northwestern College to competing in the first-ever athletic match at Sea Foam Stadium, she graduated from the Division II School in the top ten lists of numerous categories of the soccer program.
Some of the more notable categories that Janes ranked in with the program included sixth all-time with 32 points and fifth all-time with 13 goals. Testament to her toughness and determination includes ranking third in shots attempted, third in game winning goals, fourth in games started and second in minutes played.
She established herself as one of the league’s finest rushers. In only three games, was like a lioness as she challenged defenses. With 205 rushing yards on only 34 attempts (for an average of six yards per carry), she supplied 79 percent of Minnesota’s offense in 2013. The Valkyrie would outgain opponents in rushing yards by a 261-225 margin. Competing at the most demanding position in football, Janes ability to break out and emerge in the running game is reminiscent of fellow quarterbacks Nikki Johnson and Anne “Showtime” Erler.
While Minnesota’s dismal season was only natural with the losses of former LFL All-Fantasy selections such as Cydney Froehlich and Whitney Meierotto, Janes is a building block for the future. With veterans like Laurie Jo Miller and Leekplay Paye are still on the roster, it helps to ease the burden of expectation that may fall on Janes’ shoulders.
Her first game of the season was a baptism of fire as she competed on the road on May 11 against Anne “Showtime” Erler of the Green Bay Chill. Despite the 40-8 loss, Janes played with a dogged determination. With both bringing intensity to the game, the feeling of a passing of the torch to the next generation was predominant.
Displaying true tenacity, Janes evaded many would-be tacklers, while scoring her first career touchdown in the dying minutes of the game. In a show of irony, her final pass of the game was picked off by Erler (who also pulls double duty as a defensive back). Although her rookie inexperience showed against a proven performer like Erler, it was an admirable debut in the LFL ranks.
Despite a seven-week gap between their first and second games, Minnesota was crushed by the Seattle Mist on the road. Competing against one of the top-ranked teams in all of the LFL, Janes showed no fear. While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating,
While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating, she managed to lead the Valkyrie into the red zone. Unfortunately, the squad endured the typical growing pains of a rebuilding team as the failure to earn points in the red zone led to a lopsided loss.
With the Mist having been in the league for only five seasons, their dominance is a sign of encouragement for Janes and a Valkyrie teammate that is in a rebuilding mode.
Her confidence improved in her home debut, a 25-12 loss to the Chicago Bliss. With an enthusiastic crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Janes fired up the crowd as she hopes to renew the Northeast Division rivalry with the Bliss.
Competing against Heather “Rockstar” Furr, Janes was up against another of the league’s elite quarterbacks. As Furr is another star quarterback whose ability to run and make plays makes her time a contender, it was another lofty opponent for Janes to compete against.
With the home crowd behind her, Janes replied to Chicago’s first score of the game. Assembling an 8-play drive that consisted on 35 yards and a time-consuming 4:38 to frustrate the Bliss defense, Janes helped lead the Valkyrie to only their second touchdown of the season. With 38 seconds remaining in the first half, Janes displayed the poise that should transform her into one of the league’s elite field generals.
Despite tying the score, Furr showed why she is one of the most feared players in the league. She would only need five seconds to connect with ChrisDell Ferrari on a touchdown pass to head into halftime with the 12-6 advantage.
Although the seasoned Furr managed to bring Chicago to a 25-6 advantage, Janes showed tremendous character. Not giving up, she assembled a nine play drive consisting of 35 yards. With 2:12 remaining, she would run for three yards to score Minnesota’s second touchdown of the game. While Chicago would run out the clock for a win, Janes made a strong impression in front of the hometown crowd.
Although Janes was looking to win the final game of the season (a home date versus the Los Angeles Temptation), the contest had no implication on the league’s playoff picture. While the cancelleation prematurely ended the Valkyrie season, it was done as a preventative measure out of concern for injury.
For the disappointed fans, they can find solace in knowing that Janes is a future superstar and franchise player in the making. Her top five ranking in LFL rushing brings optimism to a franchise that can use it. While the rebuilding Valkyrie will likely have to endure another season or two of losing, the road to success may be one well worth it.