Donna Wilkinson a living legend in Washington football

When the football conversation arrives at some of the most impactful and remarkable athletes who have competed on the gridiron in Washington, names such as Sammy Baugh, Art Monk, Charley Taylor and Joe Theismann may quickly come to mind. It is now time to consider Donna Wilkinson in such circles.

Image obtained from:
Image obtained from:

A member of the DC Divas since their inaugural season in 2001, her contributions in helping to grow and strengthen the female game are nothing short of Hall of Fame worthy. Having grown up in Riverside, California, she would also spend one season with the WPFL’s Los Angeles Amazons in 2007.

Off the field, her heroics are just as impressive. From engagements as a public speaker to providing inspiration to children at schools and clinics, she is the true embodiment of strong feminine leadership.

Image obtained from:
Image obtained from:

Competing in a sports market where pro baseball and football based out of both Washington and Baltimore is predominant, Wilkinson has helped transform the Divas into a successful franchise that has captured the hearts and minds of fans in the capital district. Four consecutive undefeated regular seasons, a world title in 2006 and a conference crown in 2009 are part of the remarkable legacy the burgundy and gold have carved.

Known affectionately as The Animal, she has also competed on the world’s biggest stage – twice. Proudly donning the Team USA jersey, she has helped the red, white and blue capture the gold medal at the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships.

Statistically, she was the fifth leading rusher for the US contingent in 2013 while running for a touchdown against Canada in the gold medal game. Her five PAT’s tied with Mia Brickhouse for tops on the team, although Wilkinson was a perfect 5-5. Of note, she also showed versatility in her game as she registered tackles against Germany.

Saluting during a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner
Saluting during a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner

Her coming out party took place during the 2003 Divas season, a watershed moment in franchise history. A 7-1 regular season campaign was highlighted by Wilkinson becoming the first running back in female football history to pass the magical 1,000-yard rushing mark.

She would finish with 1,267 yards, making national news, while the Divas won their first postseason game in franchise history.

Ten years later, she remained an invaluable component of the Divas offensive attack. In 2013, she was the second leading rusher on the Divas, while her 12 rushing touchdowns ranked second behind the 18 registered by Kenyatta Grigsby. In addition, Wilkinson’s 312 combined yards from scrimmage ranked second overall behind Grigsby.

Image obtained from: Facebook
Image obtained from: Facebook

Named the Divas offensive MVP during that magical season, a rare accolade would follow. The Washington Pigskin Club bestowed upon her the prestigious John W. Posey award for professional athlete of the year. As the first female in history to win the award, she is in rarified air. Past winners have included Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens.

Honored as a league all-star at the linebacker, running back and tight end positions during her distinguished tenure with the Divas, it is testament to her well-rounded game. Even as a collegiate athlete, she possessed remarkable athletic skill. Attending Columbia Union College on a softball scholarship, she was equally adept in basketball, cross country, softball and volleyball.

One of the most unique aspects of her career occurred in September 2012 when local CBS affiliate WUSA-TV9 provided her with a remarkable opportunity to showcase her strong knowledge of the gridiron game. Working as a sports analyst for the program GAME ON, she proudly follows in the footsteps of former player Anita Marks, who is currently has a national radio show for NBC.

Proudly displaying the gold medal from the 2013 IFAF Women's World Football Championships in Vantaa, Finland
Proudly displaying the gold medal from the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships in Vantaa, Finland

Legendary Redskins players such as Darrell Green and Dexter Manley comprise part of the panel with Wilkinson. Christine Brennan of USA Today joins Wilkinson as another strong woman on the broadcast while Redskins beat writer Grant Paulson is part of the program. From discussing the collegiate SEC Fotoabll Game of the Week broadcast on CBS to discussing local NFL teams such as the Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens, it is a suitable showcase for the articulate and charismatic Wilkinson.

Encompassing an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of athletics, complemented by a passion for life, Wilkinson is one of the great success stories in modern day women’s football. Employing the power of positive thinking, she has set the standard for other players heading into their fabulous forties, as her commitment to training and conditioning is unmatched.

If two words can describe her calling as an athlete, it may very well be expanding opportunities. Helping to shatter barriers while ensuring that women had an equal chance to shine on the gridiron, she is more than just a pioneer, but an inspiration to future generations whose sporting legacy they
shall proudly carry on.


Author: markstaffieri

A proud supporter of women in sport. My influences in covering women's sport include Andria Hunter and Jaclyn Hawkins. Both are former women’s hockey players who created their own websites, providing a deeper insight for their respective sport. Unable to identify with multi-millionaire male athletes, the role of women in sport is one that provides inspiration while preserving the spirit of sportsmanship. My first exposure to women and sport came through Geraldine Heaney and her legendary goal at the 1990 Women's World Hockey Championships. By composing player profiles on women from all sports, it is my opportunity to give back to the female sporting community by showing gratitude for their hard work and effort. While women's hockey opened the door to a larger yet remarkable world of sport, the quantum leap in women's football and global growth of women's basketball have only helped to fuel my interest in the female game. Some of the athletes that I admire include Caroline Ouellette and Natalie Spooner (hockey), Lolo Jones (track), Connie Fekete and Sami Grisafe (football) plus Anne Erler and Heather Furr (LFL football). Other athletes consist of Sue Bird and Katie Smith (basketball) along with Barbara Mervin and Heather Moyse (rugby). In addition to my efforts on WordPress, I have also contributed to Bleacher Report, the Canadian Women's Hockey League, Hockey Canada, LFL Canada and Women's Hockey Life.

2 thoughts on “Donna Wilkinson a living legend in Washington football”

  1. Hey Donna,
    Nice to meet you at UDC. In the thirty seconds or so we talked I decided you had amassed the energy
    and charisma of five normal humans. How do you do that?
    Alex was impressed I had met the animal. Hope to see you play sometime.

    Bill Walker, WJLA


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