Growing legacy of empowering women in NFL reaches greater relevance

Excerpts from

(CNN)For the first time in the NFL’s history, three women were on the gridiron Sunday in an official capacity during a regular-season game.

A female coach was on each sideline and a female official was on the field when Washington Football Team faced off against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Callie Brownson is the Browns’ chief of staff, Jennifer King is Washington’s full-year coaching intern, and Sarah Thomas is an NFL official.


Both teams shared their excitement in being a part of a historic day on their social media accounts.


Washington Football Team tweeted, “We’re more than proud of @JenniferKing5 and all the women who are breaking barriers in our league !!”


Two of these women are no strangers to breaking the glass ceiling.


Thomas has made history several times as she was the first woman to officiate a college bowl game and was the first female official ever in the NFL five years ago.


Brownson was the first full-time female coach at college football’s Division I level when she was named an offensive quality control coach for Dartmouth in 2018.


Before she came to the NFL, King was an offensive assistant coach at Dartmouth and served as an assistant receivers coach and special teams assistant for the Arizona Hotshots of the short-lived Alliance of American Football.


King has experience as a player as well. She was a seven-time All-American quarterback and receiver for the Carolina Phoenix of the Women’s Football Alliance from 2006-2017.

The Browns defeated Washington 34-20, giving the team its first winning record in six years.

CNN’s Doug Criss, Jill Martin and Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.

Advent of PEI Island Demons brings with it strong leadership

Originally published on:

With another season of MWFL football looming on the horizon, it heralds the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Marking an exciting first in its unfolding history, the league welcomes the province of Prince Edward Island into the fold for 2019.

Identified by the daunting nomenclature “Island Demons”, PEI’s contingent signifies the fifth in league history. Taking to the gridiron for its inaugural season against the Capital Area (Fredericton) Lady Gladiators, the Halifax Xplosion, the Moncton Vipers, and the dynastic Saint John Storm, a significant element of the league’s heritage already defines the early lore of the Demons.

Among the architects of this expansion, franchise is Meagan Ferguson, who is also a league alumna. Possessing a remarkable athletic background, which included elite competition in ice hockey, Ferguson was also part of the fascinating female football movement in Atlantic Canada, having once graced the gridiron with the Lady Gladiators.

Currently occupied as a sports psychologist and an educator, Ferguson also gained a Master’s Degree from the University of Ottawa, specializing in …., Throughout her academic and professional pursuits, the love of sport never faded. Returning to PEI, the prospect of bringing female football to her home province was both promising yet potentially challenging. Finding a fellow enthusiast in a familiar face, their shared interest in sport served as the catalyst towards fulfillment a mutual vision,

“Following my Master’s degree, I had moved home (PEI) to establish my applied sport psych/mental performance consulting business and teach at Holland College. A former college classmate of mine and I, Richard Lush, had met for lunch one afternoon to see if we could get this going.

Him having great coaching plus playing plus management background, and my previous experience in the league, we felt this could be a great opportunity to provide females 18+ a new exciting option- to continue playing sport following high school, or a new opportunity to learn a new sport with new faces!

PEI has groomed some younger girls though our flag program, and has had some girls playing with boys in our contact high school league. Richard and I wanted to start this team to give those girls a place to play following high school, but also show girls who have never played that this option will be here for them to pursue.”

Taking on a role as the club’s co-founder, serving in a managerial capacity, this compelling chapter is destined to mirror the journey of another celebrated alum among the Lady Gladiators. Having also served in an administrative function in the MWFL, Cheryl O’Leary was also prevalent on the offensive line. Along with the treasured opportunity to serve in a coaching mentorship role with Canada’s national women’s team, working under the tutelage of Olivier Eddie, O’Leary’s dedication to the game encompasses an inspiration that Ferguson is destined to match.

Undoubtedly, Ferguson’s promising efforts with the Gladiators not only pays homage to O’Leary’s body of work, it positively demonstrates how the players of the MWFL can positively shape the league’s destiny, taking on key role after hanging up their helmets.

Just as instrumental in this compelling beginning is the aforementioned Lush, who shall take on the momentous position of first head coach in franchise history. Bringing a well-rounded background and a solid sporting resume, including a Vanier Cup with the University of Manitoba, and a spot on the PEI Aboriginal Sports Circle, the feeling of making history is one that has defined his enthusiasm for the position. While the lunch meeting stands as one of the defining moments of his early tenure in the formation of the Island Demons, his leadership also shines through, quick to recognize two other prominent figures in the realization of a football dream,

“This all started with an idea, and then it became a lunch meeting with Meagan Ferguson, and then the mass preparations, recruitment, and campaigning to make this all possible.

Here we are almost a year later and we have finally done something Historic for PEI, as this will mark the first time in PEI History a Female Tackle Football team will occur!

Being a part of this amazing experience has been remarkable; the ladies have been so fantastic with regards to wanting to learn the sport, fundraising, and overall helping this program become a staple of female athletics in PEI.

Without the help of Lacey Mary and Lexie Mireault, this program would not be where we are today, and we are all so proud of the program we have worked so hard over the past year!”

As opening kickoff approaches, the opportunity to have seen an idea for a new football reach fruition has resulted in a labour of love for Ferguson. Just as important is the chance to allow a new community of aspiring female footballers to experience the blend of jubilation, achievement and adrenaline that comes from gracing the gridiron, staking an assertive claim in sporting equality.

Having obtained some very inspiring life lessons from her time as a competitor with the Lady Gladiators, Ferguson is optimistic that the positive values of leadership, teamwork, respect and self-esteem shall serve as a boon in the Island’s sporting community. While the Island Demons brings her athletic endeavors full circle, the true victory for Ferguson is the chance to foster friendships, provide encouragement while instilling an inspiring confidence,

“Finally, I can only speak for myself, but one thing I am excited for is to see empowered women empower (other) women. I have been an elite multi-sport athlete my entire life, and no other sport has ever clicked for me the way football has; and I see and hear the same feedback from many women around the league.

Football teaches you a lot about yourself (self-awareness), and teaches you a lot about others (group cohesion). As a certified mental performance consultant (applied sport psych), I am fascinated with motivation, teamwork and sport confidence. I personally feel that football pushes limits and creates possibilities unlike any other team sport.

Knowing that female sport participation drops dramatically, especially following high school, our hope is that the Island Demons can give girls, and women, an option to learn the game and love to play it.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Seattle slides by LA in opening game of LFL 10th Anniversary Season

Comprising the signature rivalry in the Legends Football League, it was only fitting that opening kickoff for their 10th anniversary season involved the gridiron goddesses of the Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist. Contested at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, known affectionately as “The Pirate Ship”, these two legacy franchises set an exciting tone for the season to come, with a tightly contested game that saw rivalries renewed.

When both rosters took to the field, fans could have been forgiven at the astonishing number of new faces. Among the defining themes of said season, the movement of star players throughout the league has altered the competitive structure, introducing an unprecedented opportunity for parity. As was quickly evidenced, the rosters of the Temptation and Mist were not immune to such compelling change.

From the outset, the host Temptation featured the legendary Anne “Showtime” Erler, a former franchise player for the Green Bay Chill and Saskatoon Sirens. Competing at the Defensive Back position, the statuesque Erler is reputed among the league’s greatest quarterbacks ever. Making her comeback after more than five seasons, she will certainly provide stability at the quarterback position should an injury befall starter Ashley Salerno.

Battling a smash mouth Mist defense that features Amber Camp and Shea Norton among others, Salerno refused to be intimidated. With the Mist entering the game as 9.5-point favorites, she employed a combination of toughness and scrambling ability, displaying a poise that was crucial in keeping the Temptation competitive against such odds.

Along with former Atlanta Steam competitor Nas Johnson, who inherited running back duties from Carmen Bourseau, the offense also featured the debut of Fuyuki Hamaguchi, the first Japanese player in league history. Just as prominent is the player that will certainly be the heartbeat of moving the offense. A former championship player with the Chicago Bliss, Hallie Jiskra, the new center for the Temptation, quickly displayed a rapport with Salerno.

Anchoring the Temptation defense was the determined Danielle Harvey, fearlessly challenging the Mist’s high octane offense, which featured a series of free agent acquisitions that were beginning their second stints with Seattle. KK Matheny, who led the Mist to a pair of Legends Cup titles replaced Michelle Angel, a Temptation alum who spent last season as Seattle’s starting quarterback, is orchestrating the offense. With Katie Whelan, newly inserted at the center position, experiencing an adjustment, it may need to be the biggest priority in keeping the offense efficient.

Of note, Matheny was among four free agent signings that departed the expansion Nashville Knights, who were led by Danika Brace, the first female head coach in LFL history. Joining Matheny are former LFL Most Valuable Player Randle, plus elite running backs Stevi “The Bull” Schnoor and Dominique Maloy, all back in Mist green after playing alongside Matheny with the Knights.

As the Mist employed their running game to full effect, fans and players at “The Pirate Ship” noticed another aspect in the franchise’s theme of reunion. Perhaps the most significant change was Chris Michaelson, a member of the LFL Hall of Fame, returning to the helm as Mist head coach. Replacing Eric Bellamy, who spent just one season in that capacity, he was visible on the sidelines, trying to keep his players motivated. Worth noting, former Mist legend Jessica Hopkins is also on Michaelson’s coaching staff, her acumen proving to be integral in a game that was a see-saw battle.

The final outcome would depend on which team made the fewest errors. Despite a valiant effort by the Temptation, they were not able to gain a win on home turf. Managing to emerge victorious by capitalizing on penalties, the Mist are likely to collide with the Temptation once again in the Western Conference Final.

Although some fans went on social media to voice their displeasure over some officiating calls, the season opener has proven to be a learning experience for the Temptation. Having held their own over a Mist offense that is considered the greatest in LFL history, mistake-free football shall be crucial in satisfying their ambitions of capturing their first title since 2011.

Undoubtedly, Harvey shall be one of the Temptation’s key players on defense as the season unfolds. Considering that Ogom Chijindu was released in the off-season, while the highly popular Megan Hanson departed for the Austin Acoustic, who qualified for the 2018 Legends Cup Finals, chemistry is destined to be critical for success on defense. The progress of rookie sensation TJ Anderson will also determine whether the defense shall be among the league’s finest.

Certainly, the Mist will be prepared to frustrate opposing teams throughout this season. While the club cannot succumb to the lofty expectations, any success may be pointed to another members in their distinguished class of free agent acquisitions. Landing the most prized player in the offseason, a legendary player with the Chicago Bliss that propelled the club into both popular culture and championship lore, Alli Alberts is now garbed in the Mist paraphernalia.

Having opposed the Mist in numerous Legends Cup Finals, she has also engaged in numerous on-turf wars against the Temptation. As a side note, her collision with Salerno during her rookie campaign remains the stuff of league legend. A consistent league leader in both receiving and defensive (interceptions, tackles) categories, Alberts’ familiarity in big game situations, bringing a highly effective versatility (a quality that Michaelson likes in his players), may prove to be the final piece of the Mist’s championship puzzle for 2019.

Sarah Wright soars towards bigger role in Saskatoon Valkyries backfield

Originally published on Canada Football Chat:

Returning for a second season of Saskatoon Valkyries football, Sarah Wright took on a greater sense of confidence. With a breadth of experience that included both flag and touch versions of the game, the chance for the native of Saskatoon to graduate to tackle football, brought with it a very positive learning experience.

Playing in the hub of elite Canadian football, as the province of Saskatchewan has led the way in developing elite talent, enriching Wright’s experience with the Valks. Compared to her first season with the club, a significant aspect in Wright’s gridiron evolution involved taking on a bigger role, simultaneously emerging as a local hero.

Making the transition from fullback to running back, Wright displayed tremendous proficiency, adapting to her new role with a combination of alacrity and eagerness. Complementing such a willingness to learn and grow was the fact that the Valks tweaked their offensive attack. Changing from a formation that involved a pair of running backs, the club opted for a one runner in the backfield, establishing a featured back, it proved to be a role that suited Wright ideally,

“Going into last season with the Valkyries, though I have played many forms of football (i.e. flag and touch), I was not too certain about where I would specifically fit in on the team.

I started out practices as a receiver because that is was I was more used to but as time progressed some of the girls on the team suggested I try running back. I absolutely fell in love with that position and felt as I was helping my team more.

In my first year, I played fullback which was more blocking and power runs out of a two-back system. This year, we changed our offense formation to only have one running back and I think with that it motivated me to push harder at every practice to earn my playing time on the field.

By changing this formation, I believe that we had more options for run plays out of the backfield. In comparison to my first year I believe I came into the season more prepared as well as excited to try and win.”

Considering that the Valks welcomed many new faces to the season, Wright’s presence as a second year player also involved taking on a more mature role, evolving into a leader. Setting a positive example through work ethic, Wright’s assiduousness at the running back position also helped establish a crucial tone.

Reflecting on the fact that the running back position did involve several other players lining up in the backfield, mirroring an approach that saw players attempt numerous new positions this season, Wright’s presence provided consistency.

“There were a lot of changes throughout the season when it came to running back, we had lots of people moving in and out of positions right at the beginning and throughout the season as well, but mostly we had girls who were playing this position for the first time.

Being the only returning running back from the year before I felt like I somewhat put on a leadership role in ways of getting everyone excited to play this position and trying to prepare for the games.”

Taking into account that growth and evolution emerged as key themes in Wright’s second season of Valks football, such themes took on bigger meaning for the team in general. With the WWCFL adopting a new playoff format, as the top seed in each conference took on the second seeded team in the opposing conference, the Valks were lined up against the Western Conference’s Calgary Rage.

Leading up to the postseason, Wright would play a key factor. Amassing a brilliant performance against the Manitoba Fearless, highlighted by a 29-yard touchdown run, the regular season victory helped the Valks punch their ticket to an eighth straight playoff appearance, while avoiding its first-ever losing season.

The sense of achievement was one that encompassed Wright’s journey in 2018, progressively becoming an impact player and a key cog in the Valks’ offensive machine,

“Going into the game against the Fearless I knew that it would be a good, hard fought out game. Their football team has many strong and talented football players and I knew that this game was going to be challenging.

Throughout the season my goals included getting better each game and earning my touches so when this came around I knew that I had to be on top of my game and to put our team in good positions when I could. when the game finished it was an awesome feeling knowing that we got to go on to the next round of playoffs because we knew we were not finished yet. It was an awesome feeling.”

Disposing of the Rage in the semis, the Finals founds the Valks facing a highly familiar opponent. Renewing rivalries with the Regina Riot, whom they have opposed in the postseason during every year of WWCFL football, the first-ever All-Saskatchewan Final brought with it a heightened importance to the expanding presence of the WWCFL final in sporting Canadiana.
Worth noting, Wright would make her presence felt in the opening half, score the first touchdown in this highly historic championship game. Along with a 29-yard field goal by Carly Dyck, a member of Canada’s national women’s football team in 2017, the Valks boasted a 10-0 advantage. Although the Riot bounced back after halftime, claiming a 14-10 victory, the Valks assembled a valiant effort during an intense contest where both teams were evenly matched.

Reflecting on the championship game, Wright refuses to wallow in self-pity. Acknowledging that the team has been one in transition over the last few seasons, she is also quick to point out that the amount of new faces eager to build on the foundation established by many franchise luminaries has added a feeling of both pride and rejuvenation.

Praising the efforts of her teammates, refusing to quit in a game that demonstrated the high quality of play from both teams, it has only fueled Wright’s drive to return to the WWCFL’s biggest game in 2019. Geared towards attaining a sixth championship for the club, Wright’s determination is one that may fulfill the hopes and dreams of an entire fan base and organization. For opposing teams, the site of number 88 in the backfield next season may be poised to instill dread, ready to grow into the role of game changer.

“Being able to reach the final was a great feeling. I know our team lost some key players over the last couple of years but that only opened doors for others to shine. I could tell that our whole team was in it to win it and though the outcome of the game did not go as planned, every girl and coach put their heart and soul into that last game and that is all anyone could ever ask for. Playing in the final against our rivals was an awesome experience and I definitely think we can make it there again next season.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Rookie sensation Julianna Keys jubilant in championship season for Regina Riot

Originally published on Canada Football Chat:

Part of a superlative rookie class for the Regina Riot, Julianna Keys was hardly a novice player when she donned the club’s iconic colors. Akin to many young players eager to make their mark in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL), Keys brought a competitive background to her gridiron endeavors.

At the high school level, Keys competed in flag football throughout all four of her years. Displaying a tremendous proficiency at the sport, she was encouraged to attempt the tackle version of the game at the suggstion of her high school coach; Payton Kuster, one of the Riot’s luminaries.

“I have played flag all four years of high school and loved it; with my coach being a player on the Riot that was how I got introduced to women’s tackle football.”

Gaining a spot on the Riot’s roster as a running back, the number 27 adorned on the back of her jersey, Keys was part of a highly talented backfield that included Carmen Agar, Carly Kentz and Mallory Starkey. As a side note, Agar and Starkey have also appeared for Team Canada at the IFAF Women’s Worlds.

Appearing in her first game for the Riot, Keys reflected on the fact that she had mixed emotions upon gracing the gridiron of the WWCFL. While there were the obligatory elements of nervousness, there was also a sense of adventure, thrilled at the prospect of graduating to a much more competitive version of the game.

Abandoning the flags from her high school years for the shoulder pads of a much more intense game, Keys was eager to run for daylight each time that she was given the ball. Enjoying the fact that she was able to transfer the preparations from training camp into actual game day action, she also balanced her duties on offense with playing time on special teams, returning kickoffs.

“Honestly it was both nerve wracking and really fun. Going into our first game I still did not fully know all of the rules and I basically just learned them as they came up during each play, so my coaches were very understanding with all my rookie questions.

Yet, every series I got on for running back was awesome and it was nice running our plays we practiced for months against a new defence. The nerve wracking part for me was returning (on special teams), because there was so much pressure, but once I caught the ball, I just ran and all the nerves were gone.”

As the season progressed, Keys not only acquired confidence, but a group of role models, inspiring her to push herself to be the best player possible. In addition to finding a group of mentors in her fellow running backs, Kuster remained an invaluable influence for Keys.

Calling her high school coach a teammate, Keys enjoyed the fact that Kuster was also a participant on special teams. Undoubtedly, that influence was also integral towards Keys absorbing the Riot’s commendable team culture, one that has transformed players into champions.

“I definitely look up to Payton Kuster because she has been my flag coach for the past four years at LeBoldus and the person who said I should try out the Riot. I also played returner with her, so she helped me so much on and off the field and taught me a lot about football.

I also look up to my fellow running backs Carmen Agar, Mallory Starkey, and Carly Kentz; they taught me so much about the position so I really looked to them for pointers and feedback. Honestly, the whole team and coaching staff is so welcoming and helpful.”

By season’s end, Keys enjoyed a unique milestone that very few rookies ever experience. In addition to capturing the WWCFL championship in her inaugural season, such status was enhanced by the fact that the Riot went undefeated.

Having enjoyed such a sterling mark, it truly embodied the meaning of a “dream season” for the jubilant Keys. Certainly, the proud presence of Kuster served to extend an enjoyable time that has seen Keys grow in her gridiron odyssey alongside her.
Benefiting from the opportunity to win a title alongside her former high school coach only enhanced an already memorable season, which Keys hopes to build upon with greater glories ahead.

“It was incredible to win a championship my first year with such an amazing team and be able to contribute what I could on the field! Also to be a rookie and get playing time was awesome and I just had a blast every play. Overall, I could not have asked for a better first season with the Riot.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Delayne Aiken part of Saskatoon Valkyries bright rookie class

Originally published on:

With an influence that grows with each successive season, another aspect that has experienced growth in the lore of the Saskatoon Valkyries has involved the number of millennials gracing the gridiron. The 2018 Valkyries season brought with it a number of highly enthusiastic young women eager to build on the green and white’s proud gridiron legacy.

Among such a group included Delayne Aiken, experiencing the gridiron game for the first time in her athletic endeavors. Donning the number 20 during her inaugural campaign with the Valkyries, the apt Aiken amassed playing time, her confidence growing with every subsequent contest.

Of all the contests that saw Aiken grace the gridiron, the playoffs presented her with a series of new challenges, featuring an entire new concept in the league’s postseason structure. For the first time in league history, the playoffs consisted of conference cross-overs, with the first place team in each conference (Prairie and Western) facing the second place team from the opposing conference.

Such a setting provided Aiken with a unique milestone. In addition to competing in her first-ever playoff game, she would also experience the challenge of opposing a team in the Western Conference for the first time in her promising career.

Providing the opposition was the defending Western Conference champion Calgary Rage. While the ambitious Rage has aspirations of returning to the WWCFL finals for the second consecutive year, Aiken and her Valks teammates denied them such goals. Despite a Valks roster struggling with injuries, the collective effort against a highly competitive Rage squad provided Aiken with tremendous inspiration, definitely the finest hour this season for the proud club.

“This was my first season with the Valkyries, and I had the privilege to play as much as I was able to during the season. Playing against the Calgary Rage was definitely a different experience compared to our regular season games.

There was a different element of knowing it was our time to play our hearts out or to be done for our 2018 season, the weather at times was not the most ideal at times of the game but I believed we put our best foot forward and played with our highest ambitions. I believed we played one of our best games against Calgary, despite the injuries and hardships that we faced.”

Reaching the WWCFL Finals for the unprecedented sixth time in franchise history, it provided Aiken with a celebrated milestone. Gaining the opportunity to play for a league championship represents a rare pinnacle for any first-year player. Understandably, there was the obligatory feeling of nervousness.

Intensifying the sense of competition on this day was the fact that it marked the first-ever All-Saskatchewan meeting in WWCFL Finals history. Also marking the eighth consecutive postseason meeting between the Valks and their eternal rivals, the Regina Riot, the first seven took place in the Prairie Conference championship game.

“The championship game was one of the most nerve racking experiences that I have ever had. This was the do or die of the season, but we played definitely the best games of football I believe in the entire season against the Riot.

There were a lot of mixed emotions of pride and fear going into the championship. Proud of my team, proud of myself, proud of our coaching staff and our fans who supported all of us the entire season. The fear was of making mistakes, doing the wrong thing and losing the game.

Although we did not win the championship this year, I am ready to take on next year with full intentions of bringing the trophy to Saskatoon.”

Becoming part of the premier rivalry in Canadian female football, the chance to play against the Riot represented a “Welcome to the WWCFL” moment for Aiken. The realization of this rivalry, and its meaning in Canadian sporting lore, is one that served as one of the defining elements of what it meant to suit up for the Valks.

Although the Riot captured their third championship in franchise history, part of a shared dynasty between both clubs, each having won every title in WWCFL history, the opportunity has only furthered Aiken’s dreams of gridiron glory. Taking into account that the match was a highly tense defensive struggle, the Valks certainly played with determination and heart. In spite of the final score, Aiken was proud of the effort, subsequently gaining the invaluable experience of what it meant to compete in the league’s biggest match.

“The Regina Riot are a strong team, they have been working hard in the season, just like any other team in this league. Playing against Regina, I never knew that there was a rivalry, but when I found out, it just made that experience a heightened suspense.

There was a lot more expectation I think of myself. To make sure that I made my best efforts and did what I was supposed to, because the plays you made, ultimately were shown through in the final scores. Playing them just shows how competitive you have to be and how much passion you have for your team and this sport to be able to put up a good fight.”

During such a sensational season, one filled with many “firsts” in Aiken’s career, perhaps the most treasured moment involved the obligatory sense of camaraderie that encompasses the football experience. As the women of the WWCFL also engage in commendable volunteer work, participating in fund raising while looking to make their community a better place, the social aspect was just as crucial towards allowing for an enjoyable transition on the gridiron for Aiken.

Looking back on such a formative time, Aiken also discusses how the quick bonding on the field added to the sensation of competing in such an adrenaline-filled sport. Time spent in the huddles and in the trenches enriched the experience, truly gaining the satisfying feeling of being a gridiron goddess. As the Valkyries continue to build for the future, they have the potential for a true mainstay in Aiken,

“My favourite moment of the season, gee, that’s a hard one. I think my biggest thing was getting to know my team, and getting to feel that love and support from so many empowering women.

I would have never thought that I would play football, let alone enjoy it. I absolutely fell in love with the game, and the emotions and thrills you get from having the privilege to play this sport is phenomenal. I think the best moments were in the huddles, being together with your team, getting amped up for the next play and just focusing on what your job is on the field.

The best moments are the ones you get to share with your team, whether it is at practice, doing volunteer work, getting ice cream together or just spending time visiting with each other. It is an amazing sport, with so many empowering women, and it is a great way to stay in shape.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Jenny Mac more than just another football player

As the 2016 female football season progresses, the theme of transition continues to be its definition. Despite the addition of several expansion teams in Legends Football League play, there is also the sullen subtraction of several superstars. With the New England Liberty part of the expansion class, their season held tremendous promise as it was spiced by the presence of a stunning, yet dedicated, protagonist.

Having recently made the visceral decision to hang up her helmet, Jenny Mac was poised to be one of the Liberty’s franchise players, whose leadership presence would have shouldered the burden of expectation to qualify for the postseason. With opening kickoff, Mac’s absence was significant for the Liberty. In their inaugural game, the squad suffered a 26-6 thumping on the road against a reinvented Omaha Heart franchise.

Considering that the New England Liberty continues to endure the expansion blues, Mac’s absence reminds fans what might have been. Of note, the Liberty are not the only team this season that has suffered from the impact of her loss. Having first established herself as a superstar with the Atlanta Steam, arguably the most successful expansion team in LFL history, the perennial contender experienced their own offseason filled with change.

Although the Steam has managed to retain a significant part of their leadership core, highlighted by Dakota Hughes, Leanne Hardin and Dina Wojowski, the first winner of the In the Trenches Award, the loss of Jodie Nettles to retirement and Jenny Mac to free agency altered the team’s composition. One of the great qualities about the Steam was the sense of family that existed within the team. Such sense was a key factor in the Steam qualifying for the 2014 Legends Cup final.

Undoubtedly, the loss of Nettles and Mac adds a feeling of loss for this great family. Both statuesque and competitive, Nettles was easily identified by her trademark tye-dye headbands, while Mac would begin an exceptional trend that added an exciting new dimension to the league and its personalities.

Known affectionately as the Skull Kid, Mac was truly one of the league’s originals. Gracing the gridiron with remarkable face painting motifs, it quickly propelled her into the rarified air of both trend setter and superstar. Capturing the imagination of both fans and teammates alike, it triggered a league-wide phenomenon that saw others emulate her unique style.

Steammate Leanne Hardin would adorn her stunning visage with red and black make-up akin to pro wrestling’s legendary Road Warriors. Seattle Mist superstar and 2015 league MVP Danika Brace would adopt a face paint style similar to former wrestling champion Ultimate Warrior. Eventually, it was not uncommon for at least one player on every team to adopt face-painting as a means of both intimidation and motivation.

As captivating as Mac became with her innovative use of face painting, she was far from being just a one-dimensional athlete. There was also a gridiron intensity that constantly provided her team with a chance to win, sending a powerful message.

Perhaps no such message was more evident throughout league circles than the brawl that defined one of the most electrifying postseason contests in league history. In what would prove to be the final contest in Jacksonville Breeze history, the 2014 Eastern Conference final brought out the feline bestiality on both sides.

One of the most iconic images of that scuffle between the Steam and the Breeze was Mac putting out her hand to signify stop towards one of the Breeze players. Amidst such chaos, the hand gesture would signify that Mac meant business, bringing a gradual cease to an otherwise volatile situation. As a side note, three members of the Breeze (Adrian Purnell, Dina Wojowski and Lauran Ziegler) would become Steammates in 2015. Coincidentally, the first match in Liberty history also resulted in a bench clearing brawl with the Omaha Heart, likely rekindling memories among hardcore fans, reminiscent of Mac’s presence.

While the 2016 season should have been the extension of Mac’s gridiron legacy, unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Earlier in the year, Mac was among the Eastern Conference stars that competed in the All-Fantasy Game in Guatemala. Considering that Mac proudly contributed to an Eastern Conference victory, no one could have foreseen that it would be her swan song.

Despite the reality of sport being one where no one is irreplaceable, there is something to be said about personalities and their impact on the field of play. Mac was a model teammate, dedicated to making her team better, while embodying the spirit of friendship exemplified by always having one’s back. Like so many other wondrous women whose hard work and sweat helped build the LFL, Mac made the game so much more enjoyable and the fans who saw her play will always be grateful.

Chicago Bliss quarterback Heather Furr truly one of a kind

As the Chicago Bliss approach their 2016 season opener, with ambitions towards a fourth consecutive appearance in the Legends Cup finals, such effort may truly be an Amazonian task. Among their loyal fans, there is a tremendous sense of emptiness, sullen feelings, due to the absence of quarterback Heather Furr, whose offseason retirement shall certainly alter the balance of power.

While the LFL stands for Legends Football League, there is no question that Furr embodied the meaning of the word legend.
Definitely the greatest player to have donned the Bliss colors, Furr combined a breathtaking beauty and athletic ability that translated into pulse pounding results, while showing strong leadership and an unwavering loyalty to her team. While many of her contemporaries only played the quarterback position, Furr also excelled as a defensive back. Throughout her career, she would constantly make her presence felt on the league’s leader board in both offensive and defensive categories, enhancing her status as a franchise player.

One of the first superstars in franchise history, she not only helped elevate the quality of football throughout the league, she helped usher in a golden era for female football in Chicago. Along with Samantha Grisafe, a quarterback for the WFA’s Chicago Force, the two field generals consistently kept their club in contention for a championship. The pinnacle of their careers simultaneously took place in 2013, when both achieved the status of champion, as Chicago became the first city to win a WFA and LFL title in the same season.

The jubilation of 2013 would continue with the accomplishment of another title in 2014 for the Bliss. Led by Furr once again, the Bliss would become only the second team in league history to claim consecutive league championships. During this momentous time, Furr’s friendship and loyalty shone through.

Despite an injury nearly ending her career, Alli Alberts would make an amazing comeback, joining Furr in the rarified air of superstardom. Such a rise was not only admirable for her courage to come back after a crushing hit by Ashley Salerno, it was a turning point in franchise history. Alberts would prove to be the final piece in the championship puzzle for the Bliss. Like Furr, Alberts had the ability to excel on both sides of the field.

Such skill placed the Bliss in a position to dethrone the Los Angeles Temptation, and emerge as the league’s finest. Perhaps more importantly, it proved to be the beginning of a strong mutual respect between Alberts and Furr. Of note, Furr became more than just a mentor to Alberts, but a big sister as well. Alberts represented the future of the franchise and the potential to emerge as an ambassador for the league. There is no question that the presence of Furr enabled to both to excel without feeling burdened by the demands of leadership, complementing each other’s skills, yielding winning results.

Quite possibly the greatest quarterback in the history of the LFL, Furr was also a nominee for the league’s Hall of Fame, an honor that must be destined in her future. Part of her legacy in the game was the fact that she also brought instant credibility to LFL Canada. Playing alongside rival Anne Erler (of the Green Bay Chill), the two represented the meaning of dream team as they led the Saskatoon Sirens to the regular season title. Although they only played together in Saskatoon for one season, they certainly made an impression in the football-mad city.

Such an impression was also evident in Chicago as Furr was the only signal caller the franchise ever knew. Although Furr would enhance her status as a pop culture icon as the Bliss were featured on the docu-drama Pretty Strong, there was an ominous foreshadowing. Not only was Furr’s desire to start a family among the themes in the program, a revelation had been made that she briefly retired but returned due to the love of the game. While the program would prove to be her swan song, her legacy with the club shall always remain intact.

Suddenly, the new reality is that the club must move on without Furr, an heiress to her quarterbacking crown not yet definite. During the off-season, the club had acquired “Super” Sindy Cummings, classified as a free agent after the contraction of the Las Vegas Sin. If any quarterback had the potential to ease the transition, it would have been Cummings. After talented signal caller Nikki Johnson (who also played one season in LFL Canada with the Regina Rage) opted for the WFA, Cummings took the reins as a rookie and showed exceptional poise. With great charisma and a fan friendly demeanor, she provided a steady presence on offense for the Sin. The Bliss should have been the extension of her career, helping the Bliss transition into a new era, while allowing her a chance to win a title. Sadly, her “retirement” complicated the quarterbacking picture.

If there is one guarantee for the Bliss this season, it shall be that the organization shall deeply miss her. Although fans can only hope that one day Furr shall return to the game either as a coach or on-air personality, they will always be in gratitude to the exceptional skills that she displayed on the gridiron. Surprisingly, a member of the Bliss was assigned the number 15 this season; Sara Finn. One could argue that only one person in Bliss history deserves to wear the number 15 and that like Furr; the number should also join her in retirement.

Austin Acoustic provide valiant effort in debut game

For any expansion team, the combined feeling of eagerness and nervous energy culminates with its first-ever game. Said game proves to be the litmus test, the opportunity to truly evaluate talent and determine the success of a team. While the Austin Acoustic, one of two new Texas-based expansion teams in the Legends Football League, gained the privilege of participating in the first game of the 2016 season, one could state that it was a baptism of fire.

Kicking off against the defending Legends Cup champion Seattle Mist, it was definitely a “Welcome to the LFL” moment for many of the Acoustic’s first-year players. Taking into account that the match also took place on the road, where the Mist’s fans who regularly pack ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington are the loudest in the league, the Acoustic quickly learned how home field advantage can be crucial towards a team’s success.

Despite the final score displaying a 44-8 victory in favor of the defending champions, there were still many positives for the Acoustic to build on. Statistically, the Acoustic showed strong proficiency on the gridiron. Of note, the Acoustic gained more first downs on offense (7-4), while their passing game was much stronger than the Mist.

Signal caller Teshay Winfrey passed for 78 yards, completing 35% of her passes, while logging a touchdown pass. In addition, she would gain three first downs on passing, compared to just 1 by KK Matheny, a 2015 LFL All-Fantasy selection. Matheny, who donated 100% of proceeds from fan jersey sales to Sienna Strong Against Cancer, only completed 25% of her passes but managed a pair of touchdown passes to Jessica Hopkins, as the strong team chemistry showed.

While Hopkins led all Mist receivers with 39 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, the Acoustic’s Brenda Lynn proved to be the game’s leading receiver. Averaging 14.3 yards per reception, she managed a solid game-high 43 receiving yards. Stephanie Wickett would make her mark, scoring the first touchdown in franchise history with an 18-yard pass from Winfrey. As a side note, Wickett would also contribute 2.5 total tackles.

The key factor that contributed to the Mist victory came down to the rushing game. While the Acoustic’s Jess Powers had a game-high nine rushes, she was continuously pounded by a Mist defense that featured Lashaunda Fowler and 2015 league MVP Danika Brace. Meanwhile, Stevi Schnoor continued to prove why she is the best running back in the LFL. With a superlative 6.1 yards per carry, she anchored the Mist’s running game, shredding through the Acoustic defense for three touchdowns. She would also add to her growing legend by completing a pass for a touchdown.

Although the loss could be classified as a blowout, there was a great personal victory for the Acoustic. On social media, many of the Mist players and coaches showed a touch of class, recognizing the effort exerted by the club in a difficult debut. While the Acoustic may be in the same conference as the Mist, one element that shall never be in dispute is the level of sportsmanship. Mist head coach Chris Michaelson was gracious, showing his recognition of the Acoustic’s effort as part of a social media message recognizing the players and fans,

“I want to give a shout out to Austin Acoustic Head Coach Jericho Harris and his Players for their tenacity and Effort in their first game ever in the LFL — they never quit and continued to compete throughout the game and that will carry this team a long ways … I am confident that he will continue to grow this team and they will be a force to be reckoned with in this league … for all his players I encourage you to see it thru and maintain that desire you had in that game to continue to grow as a team and become better individually as you watch yourselves in film — very proud to see new teams show the heart and determination to compete thru it all … “

Despite such an austere start, there is optimism for the Acoustic and their fans. In the Legends Football League, some expansion teams have managed success early on, such as the Atlanta Steam. Considering that the Steam started out against powerhouses such as the Chicago Bliss and Jacksonville Breeze, it was a climb to contention that consisted of hard work and determination. With such a strong effort on offense, pieces are in place for an ambitious Acoustic team keen to emulate the Steam’s success and establish themselves as a contending club.

Forgiveness needed for footballer turned beauty queen

As jubilation has turned to desolation for Stormy Keffeler, the saddest element may be that she has become tabloid fodder. In having to make the visceral decision to relinquish her crown as Miss Washington USA, showed great courage and integrity, the result has been an onslaught of criticism and objectification, unfairly transforming her into a pop culture target.

While beauty pageants have been a lifelong passion for Keffeler, another source of enjoyment involved athletics. Among her sporting achievements, she was most famous for being part of the Seattle Mist’s roster in Legends Football League play. Participating with the club in the 2014 regular season, she contributed towards a return to the postseason, while fans quickly admired her for the ability to balance beauty pageantry and athleticism in an empowering and confident package.


Having experienced unprecedented heights as Miss Washington USA, the chance to be a role model and an exemplary citizen came with the expectation of being held to a higher standard. Sadly, this shattered expectation by some was attributed to the fact that Keffeler had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) last April.

Considering that this occurred months before her crowning as Miss Washington USA, a public apology and a commitment to undertake community service should have been satisfactory compromises, allowing her to keep her crown. In a field where beauty pageant competitors are accustomed to being judged in a rather merciless and sometimes ruthless field of play, it is hard to say if judges at future pageants would have been forgiving.


The reality is that many beauty pageant winners are thrust into the same role as actors, musicians and other celebrities, becoming the subject of scorn and ridicule should some former skeletons in the closet be removed and revealed for all. Sadly, those pointing the finger of ridicule have forgotten what it is to be human.

Through it all, the most redeeming aspect may be the outpouring of love and support from friends, family and teammates. Many current and former Mist players, having enjoyed the chance to call Keffler a teammate have heartwarmingly stood by her, truly embodying the spirit of teamwork, proving that such bonds do not dissolve once a player hangs up her helmet.

Considering that the emotional suffering endured from just relinquishing the crown is more than anyone should have to endure, the focus must now be about healing. Keffeler is facing a fourth down situation, one that can only be her finest hour with the roar of the crowd behind her.