KK Matheny’s competitive edge a key factor in Seattle Mist’s championship success

While the contraction of the Jacksonville Breeze truly marked the end of an era for indoor women’s football in America, several players found new homes, bringing their work ethic and love of the game. Among the former Breeze members that joined the Mist, KK Matheny and Bryn Renda comprised a superlative free agent class that also included Danica Brace, formerly of the Las Vegas Sin.

The result was an amazing gridiron trinity that brought the Mist and its proud fan base an elusive Legends Cup championship. Such chemistry blended with the likes of leaders such as Jessica Hopkins and Stevi Schnoor to help cultivate a championship instinct that transformed the Mist into the champions that they wanted to become.

From the very beginning, Matheny established herself as the field general of the Mist, bringing a newfound confidence for a highly talented team looking to reach the next level. A star basketball player at Chiefland High School, Matheny has never lost her competitive edge, and that was highly evident during the Mist season.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

Joined on the Mist by former Breeze teammate Bryn Renda, the result was a remarkable offensive synergy. Several times throughout this season, Matheny relied on Renda for key plays, usually resulting in first downs or touchdown scores, and their familiarity shone through. Both members of the American Collegiate Intramural Sports and Fitness Hall of Fame, the two were also teammates at the University of West Florida (based in Pensacola, FL). In addition, the two appeared in the national finals three years in a row, having won championships in 2006 and 2008.

Despite losing their first game of the season, the Mist never looked back with Matheny showing the way. She proudly followed in the footsteps of former Mist quarterbacks such as Laurel Creel, second-generation player Angela Rypien and LFL Canada champion Mary-Anne Hansen, jubilantly displaying the Mist colors, while establishing her own superlative legacy.

Winning on the road against the Los Angeles Temptation, at the world-renowned Memorial Coliseum, truly signified the turning point for the Mist. After suffering a disappointing playoff loss to the Temptation in 2014, along with a visceral loss to open the season, the Mist needed to beat them in order to establish its championship confidence.

Although the Legends Cup championship would represent the pinnacle of Matheny’s career, her finest moment may have come in the Western Conference championship game. Facing the Temptation once again, Matheny displayed the poise that would set a positive tone for the team throughout the tumultuous contest. The chance to win a conference crown in 2015 represented a liberating importance to Matheny.

Unforeseen at the time, Matheny’s final game with the Breeze took place in a hotly contested 2014 Eastern Conference championship game against the Atlanta Steam. Resulting in a hard-fought loss, it was compounded by pushing and shoving in its emotional aftermath. The one parallel between the Breeze and the Mist throughout the season was that they were both highly competitive but had never reached the opportunity to compete in the Legends Cup title game.

To beat the Temptation made a very powerful statement. Considering that the archrival Temptation were hungry for a fourth league title, it represented redemption for Matheny, proving that she deserved to be looked upon as an elite quarterback able to take her team to the next level, while providing a feeling of redemption for the entire Mist organization.

No longer were such talented competitors looked upon as merely contenders. Earning the opportunity for the biggest prize in their sport, Matheny and the Mist did not disappoint. With the Legends Cup championship game taking place on home soil in Kent, Washington, the Mist jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss.

Just like the playoff victory against the Temptation, the chance to beat the Bliss only validated the Mist’s championship effort, proving that they were truly worth of being looked upon as the very best.

As the honor of champion has been bestowed upon Matheny, she becomes Seattle’s sweetheart, emulating Russell Wilson’s great success in bringing a football championship to a highly loyal fan base. Although her passing numbers may not have been among the league’s highest, her heart, determination and team-first approach were metrics that could simply not be measured. Continuously displaying remarkable composure in high pressure situations, complemented by self-confidence, they were exceptional factors that defined Matheny’s unforgettable season.

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.

All-star free agent class brings determined expertise to Omaha Heart

At the beginning of the 2015 Omaha Heart season, there was an ominous feeling as only three members from the 2014 roster had returned. The result was a disastrous first half of the season, suffering the worst loss in Legends Football League history, a 79-0 whitewash at the hands of the Atlanta Steam.

Despite such heartbreak and disappointment, there was a feeling of encouragement when some familiar faces were welcomed back into the fold; running-back SarahJane Thompson and center Sarah Robinson. Adding to this momentum was the announcement that three former league All-Stars were joining the Heart as free agent acquisitions.

Among them were two-way player Heather Hudson, whose contributions helped transform the Baltimore Charm into an Eastern Conference contender. Joining her were quarterback Anonka Dixon, whose last team was the Orlando Fantasy, and former Minnesota Valkyrie competitor Leekplay Paye.

While Robinson and Paye helped anchor a defensive line that never truly recovered from the loss of Jacqueline “Wolverine” Smyth (among the league’s top five tacklers in the last two seasons), Hudson was found in the defensive backfield with the likes of Amanda Hogan and Jenna Holt. In their debut together, which resulted in a 40-0 loss against the Chicago Bliss, the unit managed the highlight of the game as they were able to stop Heather Furr five yards short on a fourth down possession.

It certainly resulted in a roar of approval from the loyal fans at the Ralston Arena. Despite some other signs of improvement on defense, it was the offense that struggled.

Considering that there was little time to learn the offense, Anonka Dixon struggled miserably. Compounded by the fact that the league’s defenses have evolved into a much tougher and faster unit, raising the level of brutal efficiency, Dixon’s three-year absence showed. With due deference to the Heart, the acquisition of a second quarterback such as Angela Rypien or Arika Lynne, who both played in starting roles last season may have alleviated the woes.

Unfortunately, the Bliss defense stymied Dixon, who only managed to complete one of six passes on the night. Turnovers continued to be the story on offense as Dixon was intercepted by Alli Alberts on their second possession. As a side note, Alberts would also intercept her in the second half. Hudson provided some heroics on offense, providing a valiant performance on both sides of the ball. Following the interception, she managed a fourth and goal rushing attempt that placed the Heart just two yards short of the end zone, which would have been their first touchdown all season. Hudson also accounted for Dixon’s only successful completion in the game, an eight-yard passing play.

On the opposite end of the field, the Bliss used the opportunity to experiment with their passing game, a direct rebuttal to the critics who claimed the Bliss were too dependent on the running game. Going to the air 71 percent of the time, quarterback Heather Furr completed 15 of 25 passes, while successfully connecting on four touchdown passes. In a superlative second half, she tossed touchdown passes to Chabria Survillion, Alli Alberts, and rookie Stephanie Murry.

Another benefit of the Bliss opting for the passing game was the discovery of rising star Alli Alberts showing versatility with a strong receiving performance. Logging six receptions for 60 yards, she has established herself as a reliable receiver should the Bliss require such an option in the postseason as their victory clinched the Eastern Conference title.

In the aftermath of a fourth consecutive loss, the one positive to be gained is the fact that the Heart attempted to salvage their season with the acquisition of star talent. Not only did it display a commitment to improve their roster, but it was a show of gratitude towards a fan base that is loyal to the core. With close to a month to prepare for the next match, there is a sense of optimism that better performances are ahead. Although the postseason is officially out of reach, the Heart may be at their most dangerous. Possibly employing a “nothing left to lose” mentality, it shall provide the opportunity for younger players to obtain more experience while obtaining valuable insight from the acquired all-stars. Of note, the Heart’s next match shall take place on July 10th against the Atlanta Steam, while a rematch with the Bliss takes place on August 8th.

Dazzling Deena Fagiano a fan favorite with the Chicago Bliss

On a Chicago Bliss team possessing a remarkable amount of talent on both offense and defense, Deena Fagiano is a tireless contributor in search of a third consecutive Legends Cup title. An All-Fantasy selection at the Tight End position, Fagiano is an extra weapon on a high-octane offense that features a superlative running game with Chris’Dell Harris.

In terms of veteran leadership and seniority with the team, Fagiano has much in common with Heather Furr. After the league did not feature any regular season games in 2012, there was a remarkable amount of league-wide turnover among player rosters. Both Fagiano and Furr held the distinction of being members of the Bliss in the pre- and post-2012 eras. From playing alongside the likes of Danielle Moinet (who is known today as WWE Diva Summer Rae) and Nadia Larysa (who would appear in Playboy) in the early years, to the championship era with the likes of Alli Alberts and Kim Perez, Fagiano has seen the franchise experience significant growth.

Postgame jubilation at the Thomas and Mack Center after a road win against the Las Vegas Sin (July 2, 2014 - Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

Postgame jubilation at the Thomas and Mack Center after a road win against the Las Vegas Sin (July 2, 2014 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

When TMZ Sports, in conjunction with the LFL, released a list of the 50 Hottest Athletes of All-Time, Fagiano was ranked at number 34, testament to her popularity. Although she may certainly rank number one in the hearts of her fans. As a side note, eight current and former Bliss players were ranked among the Top 50, one of the highest numbers among the league’s numerous franchises.

Like so many of her teammates on the Bliss, Fagiano is an articulate, college-educated individual whose intelligence matches her beauty and athletic ability. When not on the gridiron, her career consists of being a Sales Consultant, working in the medical field.

Custom made Topps football card of Deena Fagiano by Johngy (Image obtained from: http://www.johngysbeat.com/2014/04/celebrity-jersey-cards-168-heather-furr.html)

Custom made Topps football card of Deena Fagiano by Johngy (Image obtained from: http://www.johngysbeat.com/2014/04/celebrity-jersey-cards-168-heather-furr.html)

An alumnus from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Fagiano earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2011. The collegiate experience would positively shape Fagiano’s strong leadership skills, which have molded her into an integral member of the Bliss roster and a charismatic fan favorite.

Of note, Fagiano’s experience as a member of a Sorority, helped instill the values of teamwork, while her status as a member of the National Communication Honor Society reflected motivation and perseverance. The ability to find the opportunity to donate her time for fund raising activities which benefitted the Children’s Miracle Network spoke volumes about her dedication to the community.

Having captured the imagination of fans, friends and teammates alike, Fagiano’s team-first approach makes the opportunity for others to call her teammate a very special part of the football experience. Although her pair of league championships represent the defining moments in her storied career, the admiration shown towards her as a strong leader and valued friend are just as relevant in her gridiron legacy.

Leanne Hardin the field general of Atlanta Steam’s dominant defense

While the field general is a term usually reserved in football for the quarterback, Leanne Hardin’s military service makes her every bit a field general on the defensive side of the ball. Proudly serving in the United States Air Force, Hardin holds the rank of Staff Sergeant E-5.

Ranking below Technical Sergeant E-6, staff sergeants in the Air Force function as first-line supervisors and fulfill the leadership skills criteria needed to execute such requirements. Fulfilling duties as a Special operations logistics manager in the Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, the values of teamwork were instilled in Hardin long before she enlisted with the Atlanta Steam.

One of the most admirable aspects of her military service occurred in 2013. Of note, she was recognized among 40 empowering women as a nominee for the 4th annual Military Woman of the Year award.

Leanne Hardin does pushups dressed in a bomb suit during an open house at an air base in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

Leanne Hardin does pushups dressed in a bomb suit during an open house at an air base in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

Having grown up in Western New York, there is no question that the Buffalo Bills played a prominent role in her love of the gridiron game. A gifted athlete who also excelled in softball, her path would eventually lead her to southern regions such as Georgia and South Carolina (where she has been stationed during her military career). For Hardin, there was one pleasant fact heading into the 2015 Atlanta Steam season as wide receiver Heather Urbank, who also grew up in Western New York, suited up for the squad.

As a charter member of the Steam, Hardin has seen the club develop into a powerhouse. Considering that in its earliest incarnation, many cynics thought the expansion club competing for a championship was an impossible mountain to climb. With superior talents such as Hardin, it suddenly became a goal within reach as the squad reached the league championship game in its sophomore season.

Photo credit by: Luna Francesca Stefanelli

Photo credit by: Luna Francesca Stefanelli

Showing the skill and talent that made her an Eastern Conference All-Star selection in 2014, Hardin provides a performance on the field that is resonant. Adorning her visage in makeup, paying homage to the wrestling superstars of the 1980s and 1990s, it serves as an essential element that transforms the momentum of the locker room into one composed of pure adrenaline. As a side note, teammate Jenny Mac, who also engages in the same pregame ritual, is known affectionately as the Skull Kid. Such creative aspects fuses the feelings of intimidation and admiration, a unique amalgam likely felt by fans and foes alike, synchronously capturing their imaginations.

Having anchored the Steam defensive unit in a milestone victory a few weeks ago, it is part of a team milestone that shall remain preserved in the memories of their devoted fans. Setting a Legends Football League record for the largest margin of victory (a 79-0 whitewash against the Omaha Heart), she returned an interception for a touchdown. She would also record a game-high 8.5 tackles and gain recognition as the Steam’s Defensive Player of the Game.

In practice with Steam rookie Jessie G. Locklear (Image obtained from Facebook)

In practice with Steam rookie Jessie G. Locklear (Image obtained from Facebook)

Equally admirable is her strong sense of friendship and compassion. When Steam teammate Tiana Lopez suffered a horrible accident, nearly costing her life, it was Hardin who went to social media showing her support and providing information to other concerned parties. Along with teammates Dakota Hughes (the recipient of the league’s 2014 Rookie of the Year Award) and Coco Montgomery, this titanic trio participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, showing an inspiring side as sporting humanitarians.

While the reality of the sport, with its obligatory aches and pains, is far different from the perception of glamour and sex appeal in female sport, it only adds to the value of the heroic dreams. For Hardin, such dreams consist of a league championship, which would certainly add punctuation to the pregame streaks of sweat, dirt and smeared makeup that result in the game’s epilogue.

A quiet superstar, whose accomplished glories are those shared with her Steam sisters, her sense of life is truly based in success. Juggling family, military and athletic obligations, her efforts in sporting equality are destined to elevate the Steam to a loftier place in league lore.

In the spirit of Memorial Day, Hardin is a true American hero. While her contributions to the Air Force do not have the same emotional impact as her gridiron game, the hard work, discipline and team first approach runs simultaneous in both aspects of her remarkable life.

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.”

Angela Rypien returns to her roots with second stint as Seattle Mist quarterback

As the Seattle Mist look to build on the momentum of their undefeated regular season in 2013, fans can expect a familiar face lining up behind center. After a one-year stint with the Baltimore Charm, Angela Rypien has returned to her roots in the Pacific Northwest.

The daughter of former Washington Redskins quarterback (and Super Bowl XXVI Most Valuable Player) Mark Rypien, Angela was not able to duplicate her father’s championship efforts in the Capital Beltway. Despite a postseason appearance in 2013 for the Baltimore Charm, the latter half of the season saw Rypien share quarterback duties and eventually lose her starting job.

Although she remains one of the Legends Football League’s most popular draws, she has a lot to prove in the 2014 campaign. While the 2013 season would appear as a step back in the development of Rypien as an elite signal caller, it is possible that playing in the region where her father established his football legacy may have been too much pressure for her. Ironically, her head coach in Baltimore was Gary Clark, one of Rypien’s teammates (and wide receivers) on the Super Bowl XXVI championship team.

Of note, she had committed to competing for the Calgary expansion franchise before the 2013 LFL Canada season folded. While Calgary was the birthplace of her father, Rypien certainly showed she was prepared to keep working on improving her game and sharpening her skills.

Returning to her home state of Washington for the 2014 campaign may be the fresh start she needs to prove the doubters wrong. Despite having to replace the departed Laurel Creel, who had a breakthrough season in 2013 as the Mist quarterback, Rypien has had experience playing for the Mist and their head coach, Chris Michaelson, one of the league’s finest.

Seattle definitely has a strong team dynamic and superlative chemistry, easing a lot of pressure that may have accompanied Rypien had she played for another franchise in the league. Despite the pressure for the proud Mist franchise to win its first-ever championship, Rypien is in a position where she does not have to shoulder the burden by herself.

Complemented by the presence of Jessica Hopkins, a surefire future LFL Hall of Famer, as one of the Mist’s leaders, it is that type of strong leadership that may help contribute to building Rypien’s confidence. Lining up behind center for the Mist’s home opener on May 3, Rypien definitely appeared more comfortable than she ever did in Baltimore.

With a convincing 38-24 victory against the Green Bay Chill, returning home is certainly a step in the right direction towards resurrecting Rypien’s promising career. Considering that her father only won a pro football championship in his fourth season as a starting quarterback, sometimes the expectations have been too high in her career. Should she help the Mist franchise realize its dream of capturing that elusive championship, her comeback would certainly stand as one of the great feel-good stories in league history.

Gridiron hero Stevi Schnoor a star on the rise

With her star on the rise, Stevi Schnoor is quickly emerging as one of Canada’s female sporting sensations. Currently competing with the BC Angels in Legends Football League Canada, her coming out party was the 2013 Pacific Cup.

As the LFL’s annual holiday showcase, the event was meant to feature the Seattle Mist and the Angels. With the 2013 LFL Canada season having been cancelled, the Los Angeles Temptation were last minute replacements for the contest.

Schnoor

Undeterred, Schnoor and two of her Angels teammates, Mary-Anne Hanson and Deanna Schaper-Kotter, suited up for the Mist. Having made many sacrifices to prepare for the game, this remarkable trio of Angels not only bonded during the experience, but contributed to a 27-25 Mist victory. Of note, Hanson and Schnoor also became the first players to compete in consecutive Pacific Cups with two different franchises.

Scoring three touchdowns in the contest, Schnoor was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the Pacific Cup. Dubbed Stevi Wonder by the fans, her performance provided her with a treasured place in Seattle Mist lore.

Of note, this follows up on another sparkling MVP performance the year prior. During the inaugural LFL Canada season in 2012, Schnoor nabbed postseason MVP honors as the Angels claimed the league championship. That year, she would also compete with BC’s provincial team in the 2012 Canadian National Women’s League Finals.

To those who know her on the field of rugby, her success comes as no surprise. Known affectionately as Breezy, she competes at the Inside Centre position while competing for Canada at the 2009 Nations Cup. Having won five BC provincial high school rugby championships at Gleneagle, there is no question that Schnoor is a proven winner.

Recognized as one of the MVP’s from BC Rugby News in 2011, she is also a former Canadian women’s national rugby team member. Also a founding member of the United RFC, she has over 15 years experience in the sport.

Although the game of football is a series of executed plays which only last for several seconds, Schnoor adjusted very quickly. Her endurance as a rugby player enabled her to contribute to the Angels on offense, defense and special teams. With the support of rugby teammates at Angels contests in 2012, it is testament to the high regard she is placed in.

Truly a team player and a friend to so many teammates, Schnoor is also an athletic humanitarian. Having also played for the Dog River Howlers, a 2013 sojourn to Kenya included Howler rugby balls and t-shirts. Having travelled with her father to the African nation with the charitable cause A Better World, whose focus is on community development, Schnoor is also a champion off the field.

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.

Christy Bell part of rare quarterback club for women

In the aftermath of the 2013 Legends Cup, Christy Bell has accomplished two milestones in LFL history. Having led the Philadelphia Passion to their third consecutive championship game appearance, she joins Ashley Salerno of the Los Angeles Temptation as only the second LFL quarterback to lead her team to three straight appearances.

Unfortunately, she also holds the dubious distinction of being the first to lose three LFL title games in a row. Despite joining the likes of NFL quarterbacks like Y.A. Tittle and Jim Kelly who have lost three or more in a row, it still takes a special quarterback to be able to lead a team to the title game.

During the 2013 LFL season, she accumulated 392 passing yards with a 59.3 completion percentage. Complemented by 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, the 27 year-old was the ideal field general for the Passion.

Ironically, Bell was not the only female quarterback to lead her team to its third straight title game in 2013. This year alone, three different female quarterbacks appeared in their respective league’s championship game for the third consecutive season.

Joining Bell was Candace Bloomquist from the Western Women’s Canadian Football League’s Saskatoon Valkyries and Alex Black with the Capital Area Lady Gladiators in the Maritime Women’s Football League. All three are part of a rare quarterback club for women.

Since the formation of the Women’s Professional Football League in 1999, the modern era of women’s football in North America was born. With it, there have been four other teams that have managed to make it three title games in a row.

The WPFL can boast the Houston Energy (2000-02) as the first modern day team to win three titles in a row. Following them, were the Dallas Diamonds from 2004-06, led by Karen Seimears at quarterback.

During this time, another league, the Women’s Football Association featured Kim Grodus and the Detroit Demolition win titles from 2003-05. While no team in the current Women’s Football Alliance has won three in a row, the Independent Women’s Football League had the Sacramento Sirens claim titles from 2003-05.

While Bell is the only member of this club to have not won a championship, it does not take away from her skills as an elite football player. Although the burden of losing is one that can overwhelm a player, sometimes overshadowing the greatest accomplishments in their career, it is those moments when a player deserves to be celebrated for their career and not just a particular moment.

In the end, a win or a loss is just a snapshot in time. Although Bell is the first modern day women’s football quarterback to endure three straight championship game losses, it is also part of a bigger picture which portrays Bell as a leader and a tenacious player who never gave up.