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.

Jodie Nettles brings versatility and team spirit to Steam’s sophomore season

A charter member of the Atlanta Steam, Jodie Nettles embodies the competitive spirit that has transformed the nascent franchise into a postseason contender. Her strong leadership this year has proven to be one of the defining moments in her football career.

Experience as a backup quarterback with the Atlanta Xplosion, an outdoor football team, and qualifying for the roster of the indoor football Tampa Breeze in 2010, it is part of a bigger sporting picture that is filled with many empowering moments. Having carved her mark in track and field as the first female pole vaulter in Georgia Tech history,

Bringing remarkable versatility to the gridiron, Nettles was called upon to bring a greater leadership role in the Steam’s sophomore campaign. Considering that the club suffered player turnover, along with a head coaching change, there were concerns about the new-look club’s ability to perform on the field.

Photography by David Avent (http://www.photogdavid.net/)

Photography by David Avent (http://www.photogdavid.net/)

Nettles would set a positive tone with her remarkable team spirit. During training camp, rookie Dakota Hughes emerged as a contender for the starting quarterback job. As a side note, Las Vegas and Toledo would begin their indoor football season in 2014 with rookie signal callers. Defusing a quarterback controversy, Nettles showed great maturity by serving as a mentor for Hughes after she earned the starter’s nod.

Unexpectedly, Nettles would quickly find herself lining up behind centre. After her indoor football debut, Hughes’ season was sidelined by a wrist injury. Playing valiantly in the Steam’s season opener, a 20-13 win against the Omaha Heart, Hughes would connect with Nettles for two touchdown passes, including the game winning score.

Fan artwork by Dave Freewalt paying homage to football video games on 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (Obtained from Instagram)

Fan artwork by Dave Freewalt paying homage to football video games on 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (Obtained from Instagram)

With Nettles taking the reins for the Steam’s second game of its indoor football season, she would log 83 passing yards and two touchdown passes (to Dee Salter and Coco Montgomery) in a convincing 40-13 win against the Toledo Crush. Completing 50 percent of her passes, she would post an efficiency rating of 209.5. This season has seen Nettles emerge as a big play maker for the Steam, keeping the club in more than just the playoff picture, but a second straight division title.