Former track star Dominique Maloy a rookie sensation for the Las Vegas Sin

As the Las Vegas Sin look to climb into the championship picture, a key part of the club’s rebuilding effort involves a significant improvement in the running game. Having established herself as a track and field champion with Arizona State University, rookie running back Dominique Maloy is a welcome presence for the red and gold. To observe the muscular development of her powerful legs, one can tell that Maloy, the co-founder of a training firm called wONdnEss, is built for speed.

Having grown up in Pahrump, Nevada, she not only was the captain of the track team, but she excelled on the hardcourt, serving as the captain of the basketball team in both her junior and senior years. Such athletic versatility was also complemented by a stint on the soccer team.

As a 15-time state champion in high school, she set state records in the 100m, 200m and 400m events, earning a nod as the 3A Nevada Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Taking into account how the NFL has seen track stars such as Willie Gault, James Jett and Renaldo Nehemiah make the transition to pro football; it was only a question of time before the same would happen in the female game.

In her first three seasons of participating in track with Arizona State, she was a six-time All-American, while accumulating some of the fastest times in the school’s history. Having run both indoors and outdoors, some of her personal best times at the outdoor level included 11.39 seconds in the 100m, 23.28 seconds in the 200m and a time of 52.69 in the 400m.

Not only has she competed in the 100m and 200m dashes at the NCAA Championships, she has earned bronze and silver medals at the 4x400m relay run; she also earned an Academic All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention selection. With ambitions for the 2016 US Olympic Trials, Maloy has also participated in boxing while considering other athletic challenges including Cross Fit and Mixed Martial Arts.

Despite a loss in her Sin debut, Maloy made a strong impression. Competing against the Los Angeles Temptation at the world renowned Memorial Coliseum, she racked up 67 yards on just 10 carries, while scoring one touchdown. Although a shoulder injury sidelined her for the second half, she sent a powerful message that opposing defenses will need to learn to prepare much better in order to contain her.

During that debut game, Maloy’s performance was complemented by another promising rookie. Lining up at wide receiver, Charlotte Abrahamsen provided a jolt on offense with 42 receiving yards on five receptions. One of the league’s taller players, Abrahamsen’s season was abruptly shortened when she suffered a tear in her ACL and MCL during the game.

Although there was a tinge of irony that she also suffered an injury in her debut, one area of consolation is that other young stars in the league have suffered injuries during their inaugural seasons. Of note, Alli Alberts suffered a horrible concussion (also against Los Angeles) but she managed to become a two-time league champion. Like Maloy, her efforts provide hope for a determined Sin franchise.

Of note, the Sin’s home opener at the Citizens Business Bank Arena demonstrated Maloy’s potential for greatness. Although the Seattle Mist held on to win the game, Maloy was the offensive catalyst that nearly orchestrated a comeback. Not only did she log the first 100-yard performance of her career, she also broke through a punishing Mist defense with three touchdowns.

The chance to suit up for the Sin not only represents a special athletic homecoming for Maloy, it is also a great opportunity for Nevada sports fans to once again appreciate her greatness. Her presence energizes a Sin franchise that has been fortunate to have a rookie sensation on their roster for the second consecutive season. Last season, the club found a new signal caller in Sindy Cummings, who quickly emerged as a fan favorite. Should Maloy manage to build on her sterling performances, the honor of Rookie of the Year could be bestowed upon her by season’s end.

Kelly Campbell back for a fifth fantastic season of football

A charter member of the Baltimore Charm, Kelly Campbell contributed three solid seasons with the club before relocating to Las Vegas. While the Sin football club are in a rebuilding mode, Campbell has provided a veteran presence which translated into a patient and dignified leadership.

Raised in Maryland, Campbell would graduate from Penn State University with a degree in Anthropology. Pulling double duty as a marketing manager for the Las Vegas Sin, she brings a strong business acumen to the franchise. Many of the Sin’s promotional appearances and efforts with non-profit organizations have been among Campbell’s efforts to reach out to the community.

Of note, she once served as the Director of Marketing the Legends Football League, helping expand the brand into regions such as Canada and Australia. She is among a group of empowering women proving that athletic women can have careers after the roar of the crowd.

Collage of Kelly Campbell through the years of her football career (Image obtained from Instagram)

Collage of Kelly Campbell through the years of her football career (Image obtained from Instagram)

Throughout her gridiron career, Campbell has enjoyed the luxury of playing alongside a pair of very popular and charismatic quarterbacks. From second-generation signal caller Angela Rypien in Baltimore to Sindy Cummings in Las Vegas, she has been surrounded by elite talent. Such talent has motivated her into becoming the leader she is today. From serving as a team captain with the Charm to gaining the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award in 2013, it constitutes an impressive body of work.

On statistics alone, Campbell may not appear on the leader board, but the reality is that such criteria cannot measure a player’s dedication or enthusiasm. Taking into account that Campbell is among a rare group of athletic women that have logged five seasons in the Legends Football League, her value to any team goes far beyond the numbers.

Having worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the sport from novelty to national obsession, the last five seasons have represented a labor of love for Campbell. Sharing her views on how the game has positively transformed her life on social media,

“What an incredible journey it has been, and still is. 5 years of memories: From the first tryout ever in 2010 for Baltimore, to Mexico, Canada and Australia, and of course LasVegas. Five years of wins and losses, amazing women and teammates, incredible coaches, fans and friends. So many people that will be in my life forever all because of the LFL.

Not to mention it brought me to my future. But football is so much more to me than I can express. It has helped me grow in numerous ways on and off the field. It has presented opportunities and when I look back on where I started, I am in disbelief of all that has happened for me personally, and as a league.

Seeing so many women come and go from the sport, not knowing the thousands of hours of practice, personal training, film study, painting bandanas (haha), promotional appearances, and on and on. You HAVE to be passionate to play. And to play at this level is a dream and I hope to continue to help pave the way for women in football.

Maybe one day my daughter will have options that are just wishes for me right now. Football has changed me for the better and I am grateful for the last 5 years.”

Return to Seattle Mist brings career of Danika Brace full circle

In the aftermath of the 2014 season, Danika Brace provided an emotional and powerful farewell speech in the Las Vegas Sin locker room. Valiantly holding back tears, Brace, whose competitive spirit represented a sincere love of the game, always provided leadership by example. Of note, her farewell address was actually introduced by the commissioner of the football league.

Praising her skills on and off the field, the commissioner continued by stating that football comes and goes, but the people are what matter. With that in mind, Brace’s impact on the gridiron certainly mattered. While she was infamous among rival players for her trash talking, it sent a message to opposing teams that Brace was not to be taken lightly.

Known as the league’s premier trash talker, the only kind of talk she addressed to the Sin locker room with was one of encouragement. Her endorsement of Sindy Cummings and Markie Henderson as future superstars was definitely credible, as their first season with the Sin represented Brace’s last.

Her strong leadership with many of the Sin’s younger players included the ability to call out a player on an error. Like a playing coach, she brought acumen to the gridiron, helping nascent players grow into veteran roles. Her presence provided the Sin with that competitive edge, proving that any win against them would be hard-earned.

One remark from the commissioner did provide fans with a glimmer of hope, as he believed that she might come back one day. Such words were coincidental foreshadowing, as indoor football fans got their wish. After a stint playing football in Melbourne, Australia as one of several US import players, her competitive fire has been rekindled.

Suiting up for the Seattle Mist in 2015, it brings her career full circle. Having started her football journey with the club (winning the inaugural Pacific Cup), the experience acquired since then may yield positive dividends. Despite some difficult seasons for the Sin, Brace’s strong knowledge of Western Conference opponents makes her an invaluable resource for a determined Mist franchise looking to capture its elusive championship.

It is only fitting that a return to the franchise represents the potential for such glorious ambitions. Should Brace end the season with the championship held proudly in her hands, there is no question it shall be dedicated to her sister, Amanda.

Of note, she was introduced to the game by her sister, setting the foundation for her accomplished career. Under her sister’s mentorship, she understood the need to be competitive yet available to younger players.

Although the early aspects of her career were frustrated by the all-too encompassing realities of career and financial obligations (a common predicament among so many women in modern sport), her love of the game could not be extinguished. While her return to football in 2015 may not be classified as a comeback, a welcoming group of loyal and proud fans in Seattle are ready for another chance to appreciate one of the game’s gladiators.

Sindy Cummings among the shining stars of indoor female football

For any quarterback on this year’s edition of the Las Vegas Sin to assume the role of starting QB was an individual attempting to fill some very big shoes. After the remarkable Nikki Johnson era came to an end in 2013, the red and gold were a franchise without a leader. Yet, for a rookie to follow in her footsteps is nothing short of admirable and impressive. Winning new fans with every gutsy performance, Cummings is also building a strong case as Rookie of the Year.

At only 19 years old, Sindy Cummings already carries herself with the poise of a veteran. Always ready to scramble for extra yardage (she logged her first career rushing touchdown against Green Bay), this rocket-armed beauty is not afraid to take a punishing hit either. Despite being 5’4”, she is a spitfire who plays with the heart of a giant. Her efforts have certainly helped set the tone for a new-look Las Vegas franchise to make a solid run at a postseason berth.

Through the first two games of the 2014 campaign, Cummings is leading her league in passer rating with a sparkling 108.5 mark. Her 141 passing yards rank second among the league’s pivots, trailing Ashley Salerno of the Los Angeles Temptation, who has accumulated 147 yards. Among the top five rated passers, Cummings is the only one to have not yet thrown an interception.

In addition, her strong passing skills have helped transformed Cynthia Schmidt and Markie Henderson into two of the league’s top offensive weapons. Schmidt has stepped up to replace the outgoing Kelley Schroeder as the Sin’s key receiver, while Henderson has replaced Carmen Bourseau. Statistically, Schmidt is tied with LaShaunda Fowler of the Seattle Mist as the league’s leading receiver. Of note, there are two areas where Schmidt is outshining the competition. Her 44.5 yards per game and four touchdown receptions have established her as a favorite target of Cummings.

When not on the field, Cummings is the manager of a tattoo parlor in Las Vegas. Obviously, the organizational and leadership skills required to undertake such a position have translated perfectly in her superlative performance as the Sin’s field general.

Taking into account that the Sin entered this season with the goal of building a new era in franchise history, Cummings is helping to lead the way. Former Los Angeles defensive coordinator Tui Suiaunoa is now installed as the head coach, hoping to bring stability to the position.

Ironically, Suiaunoa’s first game as Sin head coach came against his former club. Considering that Cummings is already drawing comparisons to LA pivot Salerno, a multiple-time league champion, it was a welcome to the big league moment. Despite being bested by a 42-14 tally, Cummings outshone Salerno in the passing game, racking 104 yards through the air, while also winning the battle in time of possession.

After an encouraging 34-24 home victory against the Green Bay Chill, hopes are high that a spot in the postseason is highly possible. Should the Sin run into LA once again in the playoffs, a more experienced Cummings cannot be taken for granted. Bearing in mind that a rookie leading a team to a title in any sport is a rarity, skeptics would be ill-advised to bet against Cummings. Approaching every game with the desire to win, Cummings may prove to not only be a franchise cornerstone, but the catalyst in the transformation of the Las Vegas Sin into a winner.

Nikki Johnson shines as one of the sporting superstars of Las Vegas

Nikki Johnson first came to the attention of sports fans in 2008 when she appeared at the Women’s Football Camp and Conference in Las Vegas. Still a student at Silverado High School, she was already carving her legacy in football.

Playing in the inaugural season of the Las Vegas Sin, Johnson was nominated as the Rookie of the Year, MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. A second-team All-America selection with the Women’s Football Alliance, she earned the nod as a wide receiver, testament to her talent.

Having played against the boys as a child, Johnson was moved when she saw Sam Gordon, a 9 year-old girl from Utah rush for over 1,900 yards in the Ute Conference in 2012. Johnson even wrote her a letter of inspiration, indicating how she impressed she was with her play.

Represented by the SMWW Agency, Johnson is a sports model, motivational speaker and broadcaster.
An ambassador for the LFL, she is truly one of its gems. Having represented the league in All-Star games in Mexico and Australia, with a sparkling time of 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.

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Championing the worthy cause of having girl’s flag football earning the status of a sanctioned sport in the state, she would speak about its benefits at the conference mentioning that recreational flag football leagues for girls had nearly 2000 participants in Southern Nevada. Emphasizing the importance of giving girls a place to learn the game at an earlier age level, Johnson even set up a program to help establish the growth of the sport in her school district.

Although the Clark County School District in Nevada mentioned girl’s flag football would be classified as a club sport for 36 high schools in 2009, the desired result came in 2012. Following in the footsteps of Florida, Alaska and several regions of Canada and Mexico, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association would sanction the sport.

During that time frame, Johnson was also one of 10 young women that were chosen to help promote girls flag football for the National Football League. It would mark the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the league. From encouraging women to contact her so that she could put them in touch with proper NFL channels to get women’s football started in their area, she would also serve an internship with NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. In addition, she would contribute to NFL Matchup, a weekly show featuring Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge, as a production assistant gathering stats and researching facts.

In women’s tackle football, Johnson participated in the Women’s Football Alliance with the Las Vegas Showgirlz. Competing at the Wide Receiver position, Johnson would emerge as the squad’s receiving leader in 2010. Several of her Sin teammates also made their mark with the Showgirlz; Yevette Tanner, Jennifer Cowan and Mia Chambers (who was tackled in LFL play by a drunken fan). Of note, Johnson would also play with another WFA squad, the Silver State Legacy.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that an NFL Films crew followeed Nikki and her Showgirlz teammates, including a workout session at Van Hook Sports Performance, highlighting the growth of the women’s game. As a side note, former pop culture icon Robin Leach contributes to the Las Vegas Sun and is one of Johnson’s biggest fans, having frequently covered her storied career.

Johnson (left) and Joey Davenport during the introductory news conference for the Las Vegas Sin expansion squad. (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Johnson (left) and Joey Davenport during the introductory news conference for the Las Vegas Sin expansion squad. (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Her importance and value to her team is the equivalent of Peyton Manning in men’s football. Heading into the 2013 campaign, Las Vegas head coach Jeremiah Captain praised her talents to the Las Vegas Sun, calling her an accurate passer who could make any throw on the field. While Las Vegas has attractions such as Celine Dion and Britney Spears, Johnson and her superlative displays of football talent are every bit worthy of being a headliner as well.

A see-saw battle against the Green Bay Chill at Orleans Arena would help to solidify Johnson’s status as one of the league’s premier pivots. With both clubs fighting for a postseason berth, fans expected a shoot-out between Johnson and elite quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler.

For fans of LFL Canada, this was just the continuation of a very intense rivalry between the two. During the inaugural season of the Canadian version of the sport, Johnson was named starting quarterback and eventually became offensive co-ordinator for the Regina Rage. Erler would earn the starting job with the Saskatoon Sirens, setting the stage for the football mad province of Saskatchewan to witness women’s football at its finest. Their rivalry would reach its summit during the last game of the Canadian season as the winner would advance to the LFL Canada championship.

With Cassandra Strickland at a 2013 Super Bowl weekend party at Tabu night club. (Photo by Cashman Photos: Obtained from http://www.vegasnews.com/89248/ladies-of-legends-football-league-party-at-tabu.html)

With Cassandra Strickland at a 2013 Super Bowl weekend party at Tabu night club. (Photo by Cashman Photos: Obtained from http://www.vegasnews.com/89248/ladies-of-legends-football-league-party-at-tabu.html)

The match between Green Bay and Las Vegas would go down as one of the most exciting and historic in league history. With Erler and wide receiver Anna Heasman leading the league in passing and receiving, Johnson made perfect use of her weapons on offense, including Carmen Bourseau, Kelly Schroeder, Stephany Pearls and Danika Brace.

In a game where the lead changed eight times, Heasman would finish the game with an LFL record five receiving touchdowns. Despite the record, Johnson would steal the show by registering four touchdown passes and a 35-yard touchdown run. Her run provided the Sun with a 32-26 lead. After Erler tied the score, Johnson did not disappoint the hometown crowd. A 5-play, 35-yard drive saw Johnson pick apart the Chill defense with a 4-yard pass to Maddie McCoy proving to be the game-winning TD pass.

During the 2013 LFL season, Johnson fifth among all competitors in rushing with 213 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per carry while earning All-Fantasy honors. Her 213 yard output accounted for 47 percent of the Sin’s rushing attack. In terms of passing, Johnson finished among the top five in the league with 309 passing yards and eight touchdown passes. She was also one of the nominees for the LFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Such a strong presence at the quarterback position was essential in the Sin earning the second highest rushing in the league with an average of 185.3 yards per game. Johnson was also a key factor in Kelley Schroeder blossoming into a deep threat as she finished her campaign ranking as the fifth-best receiver in the league.

Returning to the tangent of LFL Canada, if fans conduct an internet search on Nikki Johnson, they will likely find her hit on Toronto Triumph defender Devine Burton constituting most of the top search results. Named as one of the Top 10 plays of the year on ESPN Sports Center, the play consisted of Johnson on her way towards scoring a rushing touchdown, she drops her shoulder, sending a powerful message to anyone that tries to stand in her way.

While the hit against Burton is a viral video, the reality is that the game possessed some of that typical Johnson magic. Defeating the Triumph by a 40-32 score, Johnson was named Player of the Game. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that after 48 minutes of smash mouth football, she was part of a post-game autograph session, with an ice pack on her right wrist. A true display of character and dedication to her fans.

Showing great loyalty to her fans. Signing an autograph after a Regina Rage win while sporting an ice pack on her right wrist. (Image obtained from: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/what-it-was-was-girl-on-girl-football-rosies-live-blog-of-the-regina-rage%E2%80%99s-inaugural-game/)

Showing great loyalty to her fans. Signing an autograph after a Regina Rage win while sporting an ice pack on her right wrist. (Image obtained from: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/what-it-was-was-girl-on-girl-football-rosies-live-blog-of-the-regina-rage%E2%80%99s-inaugural-game/)

Her presence certainly added a major league feel to LFL Canada. She would finish second in the league in four categories, including passing yardage, touchdown passes, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, respectively.

While it is easy to look on the surface and see the beauty that Johnson and her colleagues from the LFL possess, the most revealing element is their dedication and athleticism. From her role as a women’s sports activist and a Title IX champion, Johnson is one of the modern day builders for women’s football in Nevada. With the goal of working in operations for an NFL team or with an apparel company, Johnson would be a tremendous asset. Although words such as beautiful, elegant and sophisticated may describe Johnson, durable, resilient and talented are equally fitting. A remarkable person during an exceptional period of growth for women in sports, a day may come when fans will boast about having had the chance to see her play, the way those today speak about Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana.