Arizona Cardinals represent newest chapter in Dr. Jen Welter’s remarkable career

Since capturing her second gold medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships, Dr. Jen Welter has developed a talent for breaking barriers and simultaneously inspiring others. Since playing and subsequently coaching with the IFL’s Texas Revolution, Welter has carved a remarkable sporting legacy, emerging as a pop culture icon.

As training camps begin in the National Football League, Welter shall make her presence felt. Hired by the Arizona Cardinals as one of seven interns to participate in a coaching role, she will be working with the inside linebacker corps, making her the first woman in the history of the NFL to serve as a coach. As a side note, she was joined among the new faces on the Cardinals coaching staff by Levon Kirkland, a recipient of the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship.

AP Photo: Matt York

AP Photo: Matt York

Welter’s season as a coach for the IFL’s Texas Revolution earlier this year was one that mirrored another great accomplishment for women coaching in football. Former Lethbridge Steel quarterback Kessie Stefanyk not only became the first female coach in the history of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, she would prevail in her coaching debut.

Although seasons in all sports tend to be measured in terms of failure and success by championships, there was no failure for Welter. Even though the Revolution were defeated in the IFL championship game, denying Welter an opportunity to add another championship to her growing list of accomplishments, her landmark season represented a greater victory, one in which she proved that women are not only ready for the responsibilities of coaching in football, but can be looked upon as equals. It was the type of empowering performance that certainly made an impression on the Cardinals.

Making news headlines the world over, her signing with the Cardinals was covered from a range of media services ranging from CNN to Cosmopolitan. Not only did she receive an outpouring of support from those in the women’s football community, where she spent over a decade with the Dallas Diamonds, some highly notable individuals showed their encouragement on twitter.

From United States Vice President Joe Biden congratulating her, to women’s sports pioneer Billie Jean King proudly acknowledging this historic hire, there is a growing momentum behind Welter.

With segments of her press conference broadcast on the NFL Network’s popular program, Total Access, Welter was gracious in acknowledging not just head coach Bruce Arians for providing her with this opportunity but displayed class by recognizing the Bidwill family, who have owned the Cardinals for over 50 years.

Of note, the Bidwill family was the first to hire an African American woman (Adele Harris) to serve in an executive capacity in the NFL. Throughout the seasons, the club also helped increase the presence of minorities in pro football by hiring Bob Wallace as the first African American to handle player contracts.

During the 2004 NFL season, the Bidwill family featured the first NFL club to have a pair of African-Americans serve in the general manager and coaching positions. The acquisition of Welter only helps to extend their proud legacy of opening doors in football.

In the photo opportunity that followed the introductory press conference, Welter proudly put on the Cardnials helmet with a winning smile that was impossible not to notice, creating an iconic image. Afterwards, Welter lifted said helmet over her toned, muscular shoulders like a trophy, certainly a great victory for women in football.

#jen-welter

DC Divas back in national championship picture

Considering that the 2015 campaign marks the DC Divas 15th Anniversary season, it seems highly fitting that one of the signature franchise in American female football has earned the opportunity to compete in the WFA National Championship Game.

After an undefeated regular season filled with memorable milestones, including quarterback Allyson Hamlin’s 200th career touchdown pass, and a season sweep of the powerhouse Boston Renegades, the Divas marched towards a division crown while gaining home field advantage.

Capitalizing on it, the Divas trounced the Miami Fury by a 48-12 tally in the opening round. Afterwards, the Atlanta Phoenix were defeated 40-6, marking the first time in five years that the Divas qualified for the conference championship game.
The road to the WFA National Championship Game consisted of a very challenging opponent, making victory very hard earned.

Having won the 2013 WFA National Championship, the Chicago Force were looking to claim a second title in 2015. Taking into account that All-World quarterback Sami Grisafe had retired in the aftermath of the 2014 campaign, the Force wanted to prove that they were capable of succeeding despite the loss of a living legend.

Prevailing by a 43-24 tally, the Divas compete for a national championship for the first time since 2006. Outscoring their postseason opponents by a cumulative score of 171-42, the Divas have been nothing short of dominant. Competing against them shall be the Dallas Elite, who defeated the San Diego Surge (2012 WFA national champs) by a 56-28 final to capture the American Conference crown.

Back in 2006, the Divas assembled an undefeated season, and a third consecutive Conference championship game appearance, a 32-7 win against the Columbus Comets. Defeating the Oklahoma City Lightning for the NWFA national title, running back Rachelle Pecovsky received a write-up in Sports Illustrated.

For longtime Divas veterans such as Missy Bedwell, Donna Wilkinson and Trigger McNair, the chance to play for a national championship represents the first opportunity in almost a decade to compete for such a prestigious prize. It was only fitting that McNair was one of 10 Divas named to the WFA All-America team. Named to the Second Team, this was her 17th season with the Divas, culminating as the team leader in tackles.

With nine other Divas having the honor of WFA All-American bestowed upon them, there is a strong feeling of momentum heading into the championship game. The nine D.C. Divas recognized as 2015 WFA first-team All-Americans were Callie Brownson, DeVon Goldsmith, Kenyetta Grigsby, Allyson Hamlin, D’Ajah Scott, Tia Watkins, Ashley Whisonant, Kentrina Wilson and Becky Worsham.

#dc-divas

Much more to Alli Alberts than postgame beer celebration

Although an initial impression of Alberts, the football player, may be defined by her beautiful and confident demeanor, the reality is that she is equally ambitious off the field, with the perseverance to match. Considering her goal of working in the dental field as a prosthodontist, she may definitely see an increase in patients. Having graduated from the College of Dentistry of 2013, Alberts balanced her aspiring gridiron career with the Bliss as well as a three-year advanced prosthodontics program, which involved a breadth of study involving the treatment of teeth, specifically with crowns, bridges, veneers, inlays, dentures and implants.

An exceptional athlete at the high school and collegiate levels, the chance to play for the Bliss rekindled her love of competition. Among her athletic legacy at Freeburg High School (where she was also Valedictorian), she earned All-State honors in basketball, volleyball and track and field. In junior high school, her athletic talents resulted in state triumphs in volleyball, basketball and three track and field events (800 meter run, 4 by 400 relay and the high jump).

At Washington University in St. Louis, she set a school record in the heptathlon, where she earned three-time All-America honors during her university years. Equally impressive was her contributions to Washington University’s NCAA Division III volleyball title in 2007, earning MVP honors.

Of note, the double major in biology and anthropology would earn recognition in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd feature for her volleyball heroics. As an outside hitter for the volleyball team, her sterling performance of 50 kills, 45 digs, seven block assists and four aces resulted in an undefeated week for the University. Subsequently, she was also the Division III Player of the Week.

Having attended St. Louis Rams football games in her youth (her family had season tickets), her first experience with the sport included flag football. The chance to break barriers and play tackle football represented an empowering opportunity to return to team sports, an aspect of life that always provided her with tremendous sense of happiness and accomplishment.

During her inaugural season with the Chicago Bliss, it would have been easy for Alberts to reconsider and walk away from the game. Having first come across the league on television, she received a “welcome to the gridiron” in her debut, courtesy of one of the league’s greatest competitors. Suffering a concussion in an attempted tackle against All-Fantasy QB Ashley Salerno of the Los Angeles Temptation, other injuries that season included a cracked rib and a bruised leg.

Compounding her woes during that first game was the fact that Salerno actually knocked her unconscious during the attempted tackle. With her mother and friends in the stands, it was a distressing scene as she received medical attention on the field. Although her mother had wanted her to quit, she would make a valiant return three weeks later, showing a strong self-esteem that may have eluded her in years past. It was one that culminated with Alberts leading the team in numerous statistical categories; receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns, respectively. A nominee for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award, she also recorded a quarterback sack and two interceptions on defense, displaying strong versatility.

Bouncing back from such discouraging injuries, she would have the last laugh, as the Bliss usurped the Temptation to become Western Conference champions. In the Legends Cup, she would register two rushing touchdowns in the first half against the Philadelphia Passion, as the Bliss enjoyed a commanding 21-point lead at halftime. Prevailing by a 34-18 margin, the first championship win in Bliss history was testament to Alberts’ resilience.

It may come as a surprise to know that Alberts struggled with body image issues when she was younger, something that has plagued so many other women. Upon joining the Chicago Bliss, Alberts’ perceptions had changed for the better. In observing that many of her teammates were muscular, possessing massive quads, the fact that male fans admired them and found them attractive served as a trigger for Alberts. She suddenly became more comfortable with herself and the results have spoken for themselves, as she became more than just an elite athlete, but a cherished teammate and friend.

#alli-alberts, #chicago-bliss

Seattle Mist enter Fourth of July with playoff berth over archrival LA Temptation

Competing for the last time during the regular season, the battle for first place in the Western Conference promised to be intense. With the previous matches between the Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist resulting in road wins, home field advantage was not an assurance of a victory for the Mist.
With legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno still nursing her injuries, Michelle Angel was thrust into the role of starter once again. Making her second career start, she could not benefit from the presence of center Laura Barba, who was absent. Struggling on the Temptation’s first possession, the Mist took over within the first three minutes of the game.

Employing a diverse running game with the likes of Danika Brace, Mele Gilmore and Stevi Schnoor, it did not take long for the tensions to rise between these two heated rivals. Elements such as trash talking and shoving quickly became the norm, exemplifying the intensity of one of the league’s signature rivalries.
Seattle would eventually draw first blood. Elite quarterback KK Matheny connected with Mist charter member Jessica Hopkins on a 13-yard pass play. Hopkins certainly went the extra mile, evading three defenders for great field position at the five-yard line. On the next play, Matheny would find her former Jacksonville Breeze teammate Bryn Renda for the 6-0 advantage.

Many relentless hits on Matheny would emerge as a theme during the contest. Despite rarely being sacked so far this season, players such as Naja Christmas and Kimm Chase have been merciless, compounding to the existing tensions.

Of note, Seattle would reciprocate with a series of brutal hits. Although Carmen Bourseau maintained her status as the F-150 with a seven-yard run, her Temptation teammates were not so lucky. Backup defensive end Katie Whelan filled in admirably for Deanna Schaper-Kotter sacking quarterback Angel for a grueling 11-yard loss. Facing a fourth and thirteen, a five yard gain by LFL Hall of Famer Monique Gaxiola resulted in a bruising hit by Stevi Schnoor, who is also one of the LFL’s leading rushers, resulting in Seattle gaining possession of the ball.

With Seattle unable to assemble an offensive drive, the Temptation did not fail on this next possession. Bourseau would be the catalyst for the running game, attaining 28 yards on a 33-yard drive, including an 18-yard touchdown run. She would punctuate the drive with a run attempt for the extra point, providing the Temptation with a 7-6 advantage.

Showing grace under pressure, Matheny evaded Christmas and Chase with a superlative spin move, finding Renda for a 31-yard touchdown pass. It was a karmic payback for their dirty hits earlier in the game.

The remainder of the first half continued to maintain the magic of an energetic affair with more offensive fireworks. A nine-yard touchdown run by Sherri Awagah resulted in the Temptation regaining the lead by a 13-12 margin, while strategically consuming four minutes. With Seattle turning the ball over on downs, the Temptation were hoping to add to their lead. Hanson would rise to the occasion, forcing a fumble on Angel, with Whelan making the recovery.

In what would prove to be the turning point of the game, Seattle capitalized on the fumble recovery with a touchdown. Matheny wonderfully dissected the Temptation defense, finding Hanson on an eight-yard completion, adding to her own heroics. Renda would take the hand off from Matheny and power her way into the end zone, running behind a block by Hopkins for the 18-13 halftime lead.

Receiving the kick-off to begin the second half, Seattle capitalized quickly with a scoring drive consisting of six plays. Connecting with Hopkins on a 13-yard strike, Matheny continued her solid performance as the Mist extended their lead to 11 points.
Danika Brace would dominate defensively for the remainder of the game, compiling a game-high 11.5 tackles. Bringing tremendous enthusiasm to the gridiron, Brace has emerged as an emotional leader, making a strong case as the LFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Adding to such a strong argument was the interception she made off of Angel on the Temptation’s next possession.

Despite the Mist turning the ball over on downs, Brace would elevate her already superlative game with another dominant showing. A 10-play drive by the Temptation did not yield positive results as Brace managed a resounding seven tackles, including three bruising hits that sent a strong message about the potential consequences of cheap shots on Matheny.

Running out the clock on the last drive of the game, the Mist garnered their first home win of the season, while clinching a playoff berth. Holding a one-game lead over the Temptation for the division crown, momentum is high. Taking into account that the Mist shall serve as the host franchise for the 2015 edition of the Legends Cup, it would be a fitting conclusion to a season that has seen the Mist build towards capturing its first championship in franchise history.

References: LFL360

Heroes of the WFA earn the football card treatment

Among the memorable highlights of the 2015 WFA football season, Nebraska-based Doji Malo Trading Cards is most worthy of mention. Issuing a series of trading cards featuring players from numerous WFA franchises, it added a major league feeling to an exciting 2015. Although it would not have been feasible to feature a card set with every single WFA player, there was a mutual feeling of victory among all the players in the aftermath of the set’s release.

Of note, the players included in the 18-card base set were the likes of Jeannette Gray, a gold medalist at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds and 2014 WFA National Champion with the Chicago Force, along with Kansas City’s Sowers sisters, Liz and Katie, who is featured on card number 1. With only 500 sets in existence, these cards are destined to become collector’s items.

In 2015, DC Divas quarterback Allyson Hamlin became the first quarterback in Washington football history (male and female) to reach 200 career touchdown passes. With her inclusion in this year’s set, it adds a nice serendipitous touch. Other teams that saw players featured in Doji Malo’s inaugural set included Everett Reign, Miami Fury, Orlando Anarchy, Portland Fighting Fillies and the Seattle Majestics.

One of the most unique aspects of the set is the fact that it provides Jeannette Gray with the second trading card of her career. A two-sport star who once played for Chicago in the now-defunct American Basketball League, she was featured in a set of ABL trading cards issued by SkyBox. The chance to grace Doji Malo’s WFA set, including some autographed issues, truly brings her athletic career full circle.

Adding to the collectability of these remarkable issues is the fact that there are also autographed versions. Considering that all trading card companies that release sports cards feature autographs (and cards with game jersey swatches), it was only natural that Doji Malo would add to the excitement of its product. In addition, a 2016 release is already being planned.

Although WFA teams are established all over the United States, some franchises will only play each other once in a decade, making it difficult for fans to obtain autographs of their favorite players. Thanks to Doji Malo, the autographed cards make that struggle much more convenient, dedicating themselves to creating a positive fan experience. For set collectors, the full list of autographed cards are as follows:

Limited to 100:
Allyson Hamlin, DC Divas
Jeanette Gray, Chicago Force
Katie Sowers, Kansas City Titans
Liz Sowers, Kansas City Titans
Jennifer Plummer, West Michigan Mayhem

Limited to 60:
Michele Walsh, Everett Reign
LeAnn Layman, Everett Reign
Amelia Kahr, Everett Reign
Brittany Burns, Everett Reign
Brooklyn Holton, Everett Reign

Limited to 60 “Three on One” Card:
Jackie McCall, Kalena Firstrider, Kase Tukutau, Seattle Majestics

For additional information, the company can be reached at cards@dojimalo.com

#allyson-hamlin, #jeanette-gray

WFA gridiron legend Sami Grisafe launches song to honor marriage equality

Known as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the WFA, All-World quarterback Sami Grisafe is more than just an elite athlete. Having led the Chicago Force to the 2013 WFA National Championship, she retired after the 2014 WFA All-America Game (hosted in her current residence of Chicago) in order to engage in her music career on a full-time basis.

Akin to Jim Brown, who retired after his glorious NFL career to pursue an acting career, Grisafe is looking to bring the same empowering message that she brought to the gridiron to her musical endeavors. Showing great courage in expressing her same-sex preference, it is a message that Grisafe has also employed in some of her songs.

Of note, this is not the first time that Grisafe has turned to music to show support. Another song that provided comfort and hope was the song “Trevor”, named in honor of The Trevor Project. Her performance of the Star Spangled Banner prior to the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships captivated a nation of female football fans.

In the aftermath of the United States government making same-sex marriage legal throughout the country, it was a point of pride for Grisafe, representing more than just a personal victory, but a moral victory. Through her musical talents, she shared her support of this historic moment in America with a remarkable song.

Titled “Brand New Fairy Tale”, the song also features the efforts of Eric Himan, plus a new music video. With the support of Vicious Muse, LLC, Glam Tie Media, Chicago Recording Company, Ink Factory Studio, the Windy City Times and AfterEllen.com (where the video can be seen), it serves as her opus, a creative, emotional and powerful way to support marriage equality.

#sami-grisafe