The 2014 edition of the Women’s Football Alliance All-America Game served as a historic backdrop. Competing on home turf at Lane Tech Stadium in Chicago, minutes away from Wrigley Field, where Sami Grisafe once sang the Star Spangled Banner, the legendary quarterback graced the gridiron for her final game.
Fellow First Team All-America selections from the Force included Jeannette Gray, and three members of the offensive line; Jamie Menzyk, Tami Engelman and Dawn Pederson. Tight end Kelsey Casey led the group of Chicago players selected to the Second Team, joined by the likes of Amber Kimbrough, Angel Smith and Elisha Okrey.
For the hometown fans, a preferred ending would have included Grisafe and the Chicago Force competing in the WFA National Championship Game. Having led the Force to a commanding victory over the Dallas Diamonds to claim the 2013 title, the city of Chicago was bestowed the privilege of hosting the game in 2014.
Leading the Force to the 2014 National Conference championship game, Grisafe and her team were one win away from appearing in their second consecutive title game. Although a national title on home soil would have been the fairy tale ending to Grisafe’s astonishing career, it does not diminish from a career in which she established herself as the greatest female field general in the WFA’s history.
During the 2014 campaign, Grisafe only played in four regular season games and managed to assemble another strong season statistically. Her best single game performance came in Week 1, as Chicago emerged victorious in a 70-0 whitewash of the Detroit Dark Angels. Of note, Grisafe went through the air against Detroit for 321 yards, four touchdowns, an 81.5 completion rate and a stunning 155.8 passer rating.
Although her 909 passing yards ranked seventh among WFA pivots, her 65.3 completion percentage ranked third overall, while her sparkling 113.9 passer rating placed her fifth. Averaging 45.1 points per game, the Force were an offensive juggernaut, second overall among all WFA franchises. Other statistical benchmarks included averaging 427.4 yards per game along with an astounding 175 first downs.
Jeanette Gray was the recipient of Grisafe’s passing skills, as she paced all WFA receivers with 42 receptions and 602 receiving yards, respectively. Ironically, Gray may be the quarterback who inherits Grisafe’s role as starting quarterback. In limited action, she completed 61.9% of her passes while registering 228 passing yards.
The week leading up to the All-America Game included another significant display of Grisafe’s talent. Shining in another unique spotlight, Grisafe proved why she is a highly talented singer and musician who earned six Grammy pre-nominations in 2013.
Serving as the opening act for Jill Sobule’s performance at Chicago’s City Winery on July 31, it was an opportunity for fans to witness the newest chapter in her musical career. As part of a new acoustic folk rock duo with Linsea Waugh, a former roommate at Roosevelt University in Chicago, critics have labeled their music as an amalgamation of many unique styles, while providing high energy.
Two days later, it was the final chance for Windy City football fans to see one of the greatest quarterbacks (male or female) in its proud sporting history. As the Midwest skies were adorned in bright sunshine, its shining light provided Grisafe with the chance to take flight for one final time.
In a game where the National Conference prevailed by a 24-7 tally, Grisafe entered the game in the third quarter. At the time, Grisafe’s presence was essential for a squad looking to build on a 12-7 lead. On the final play of the third quarter, Grisafe connected with Candi Thompson of the Tampa Bay Inferno for a two-yard gain
Starting the fourth, Grisafe orchestrated a drive that featured a long pass to another Inferno competitor, Marcelina Chavez. Weaving her way through the American Confernce defense, Grisafe would connect with a third different player from the Inferno, Sabrina Kelly. She would run in Grisafe’s short pass to daylight as the National Confernece boasted an 18-7 advantage with 11:04 left.
While the continuation of her magnificent musical career ensures that Grisafe will continue to capture the hearts and minds of sports and music fans alike, her tenure as an athlete represented the beginning of an empowering era for women in sport and culture.
Whether it was serving as the field general for the Force or for Team USA in the march towards two gold-medal efforts, Grisafe will one day be part of the mythology that defined the early years of female football, akin to Walter Camp in college football and the likes of Red Grange and Jim Thorpe in pro football.
As the Force and the WFA now look towards 2015, there is no denying that the game loses a certain dimension and complexion with the absence of Grisafe. She was more than just an ambassador for the game and a symbol of courage for female athletes to declare their gender preference without fear. Her status as a cherished teammate, leader and role model are attributes that not only define her as a Hall of Fame worthy player, but as a Hall of Fame quality person.