Danika Brace delivers on all accounts in dream season for Seattle Mist

After contemplating retirement following the 2014 season with the Las Vegas Sin, the return of Danika Brace to the gridiron was warmly welcomed by the Seattle Mist. During her time with the Sin, Brace developed into one of the league’s elite performers on defense, becoming an emotional leader, sticking up for her teammates in the face of adversity. Such bravura was exactly what the Mist needed, as the club entered 2015 looking for its first-ever championship.

Part of a sensational free-agent class that included quarterback KK Matheny and wide receiver Bryn Renda (both of the dissolved Jacksonville Breeze), Brace developed quick chemistry with her new teammates, bringing an enthusiasm and determination that set the example on the defensive side of the ball.

In the aftermath of a regular season that saw the Mist grab the Western Conference regular season crown with a 5-1 mark, Brace built on such success with a memorable postseason performance. Grabbing the game-winning touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Temptation in the Western Conference championship game, she would also log 3.5 tackles. In the Legend Cup final against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss, not only did Brace rank third among all players in rushing yardage and second in receptions, she would show great versatility by ranking second among all players in tackles, while leading all Mist players, respectively.

A jubilant Brace all smiles after a landmark Legends Cup victory over Chicago (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleMist?fref=photo)
A jubilant Brace all smiles after a landmark Legends Cup victory over Chicago (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleMist?fref=photo)

Brace proved to be a remarkable force on both sides of the ball. Akin to Stevi Schnoor, a very talented athlete who has provided solid performances offensively and defensively, their collaborative efforts added a whole new dimension to the Mist’s confidence.

Statistically, both were among the Mist’s top four producers on offense and defense. While Schnoor was the catalyst for the Mist’s running game, earning the league’s rushing title. Brace tied with fellow free agent acquisition with 14 receptions. Of note, Brace’s 112 receiving yards would finish second to Renda and Schnoor managed 13 receptions, providing the Mist with a very potent passing game as all three finished among the league’s top five leading receivers.

Defensively, Brace was the gold standard. While she tied Mist charter member Jessica Hopkins with 19 assisted tackles, she punctuated her impact with an astounding 26 solo tackles, registering 35.5 overall, respectively. Only Chicago’s Alli Alberts managed more tackles (36.5). In addition, Brace and Hopkins tied for second overall in league play with a pair of interceptions each.

Brace’s efforts were a key factor in the Mist allowing only 77.4 rushing yards per game, second only to the Chicago Bliss. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Brace accounted for 21% of the Mist’s tackles, she managed 6.5 tackles for loss. It was also among the many reasons that Brace was recognized as the 2015 LFL Defensive Player of the Year. Having also had the honor bestowed upon her in 2014, she becomes the first woman in league history to claim the award back-to-back with two different teams, testament to her dominant play.

Complementing such a historical achievement was the fact that she captured the 2015 league MVP Award, the first player in Seattle Mist history to do so. Taking into account that Brace started her career in 2011 with the Mist, the MVP honor helped bring her fabled career full circle. Following it up the next day with an emotional victory against the Chicago Bliss on home soil, capturing the first Legends Cup in team history, it was a storybook ending to a dream season.

In the aftermath of an unprecedented Legends Cup championship, Brace has proudly served as one of the Mist’s ambassadors. Joined by several teammates along the way, she has brought the fabled Cup on a fabled tour of Seattle.

KK Matheny (left) and Brace bringing the Legends Cup to the Seattle Sounders (Image obatined from: https://twitter.com/danikabrace)
KK Matheny (left) and Brace bringing the Legends Cup to the Seattle Sounders (Image obatined from: https://twitter.com/danikabrace)

Complemented by the presence of her proud, winning smile, Brace and the Cup have gone to the top of the world famous Space Needle, while showing up at the stadiums of other famous Seattle sports teams, such as baseball’s Mariners and soccer’s Sounders.

Among all the accolades being recognized by Seahawks head coach, the legendary Pete Carroll on social media may have been the most remarkable honor. Taking into account that Carroll led the Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, his recognition only adds a proud big league feeling to the hard work and sacrifices of empowering women such as Danika Brace, whose 2015 season was one of the finest in modern female football history.


Hall of Fame honor brings Liz Gorman’s gridiron career full circle

Although Liz Gorman is considered one of the most attractive women to have ever graced the gridiron in Legends Football League play, she was simultaneously one of its most talented. While looking beyond sex appeal and appreciating the world class athletic ability has remained a challenge for several of the women who grace the gridiron, there is no question that the resident of Syracuse, New York was among one of the first faces for the league.

Her accomplished career reaches a glorious pinnacle as she becomes the second player inducted into the Legends Football League Hall of Fame, following LA Temptation defensive back, Monique Gaxiola, who was inducted in 2014. This year, Gorman was among a group of remarkable Hall of Fame nominees that included quarterback Heather Furr (Chicago Bliss/Saskatoon Sirens), defensive back Jessica Hopkins (BC Angels/Seattle Mist) and Lauran Ziegler (Atlanta Steam/Jacksonville Breeze).

On the red carpet at the 2015 LFL Awards Gala (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethGormanTraining)
On the red carpet at the 2015 LFL Awards Gala (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethGormanTraining)

Akin to Gaxiola, Gorman’s sporting heroics had extended beyond football. A multi-sport star at the high school level, her focus would loan itself to soccer. Competing at Judson University and later Florida Southern College, her greatest accomplishment involved competing in the 2009 NCAA women’s soccer tournament.

Unlike Gaxiola, who competed in the LFL’s Western Conference, Gorman established herself as an elite competitor in the Eastern Conference (although she spent one injury plagued season with the LA Temptation in 2013). Competing primarily with the Breeze franchise when it was launched in Tampa, Gorman not only established herself as a defensive stalwart, she quickly became one of its leaders. Of note, the 2010 season would serve as a breakthrough for Gorman, who earned the Defensive Player of the Year Award along with an All-Fantasy selection.

A multiple All-Fantasy selection, Gorman eventually became an ambassador for the league, one of the first stars to become highly visible within the brand. Taking into account that players, teams and the league in general may have been maligned over its sex appeal, Gorman’s ability to excel on the gridiron quickly erased any preconceived notions about the player’s abilities, proving that these women were truly worthy of the moniker of athlete.

Alongside Breeze teammates such as the incomparable KK Matheny and sensational Saige Steinmetz, this titanic trio was part of the LFL’s tour of All-Star games, competing in exotic places such as Australia, Mexico, the Phillipines and Singapore. Representing the Eastern Conference in such games, Gorman heped the East prevail in the 2010 All-Fantasy Game (contested in Monterrey, Mexico). The following year, she would earn All-Fantasy Game MVP honors, as she propelled the East to a thrilling come from behind victory.

Blending her remarkable athletic gifts and film star looks, Gorman rose to popularity with fans throughout all of the league’s markets. One of the most physically fit athletes in the game, she treated her body like a temple, worshipped by fans and teammates alike.

April Goss ready to kick for Kent State

While the most famous football player that Kent State produced was Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, he may soon be joined in such elite company. Kicker April Goss is building on the momentum of women such as Dr. Jen Welter, who in 2015 served as a member of the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff. Hailing from Pennsylvania, the 5-6 kicker is looking to become the first woman in Division I college football to see action in a 2015 regular season game.

Taking into account that it is her senior season, it would certainly be a suitable acknowledgement. Having publicly vowed that Goss, a native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, shall see game action before the season expires, Kent State coach Paul Haynes has not confirmed in which game she shall appear. Possessing a background in soccer, akin to kickers both male and female, she first graced the gridiron at the high school level.

Originally a walk-on with the Kent State Golden Flash, Goss has never seen any regular season action despite several seasons with the program. A 2014 spring game provided Goss with the closest experience yet, kicking a game-winning extra point.

Although Goss is not the first woman to play for a Division I team, she would love to extend the growing legacy, one that was established by Katie Hnida. Kicking a pair of extra points in a 2003 game for New Mexico, Hnida was the first female in Division I history to do so. Although she has managed kicks in practice of 40 yards, her most accurate distance consists of 10 yards.

Travelling with the Golden Flash last week, a 52-3 loss against the Illinois Fighting Illini, it represented only the third time in four seasons with the program that she accompanied the team. Her journey to the locker room consisted of walking outside the stadium into a nearby recreation center (which was on campus).

Although her smaller size has presented challenges concerning getting her into a game, Goss deserves the opportunity to at least emulate Hnida and kick an extra point. Considering that Kent State’s next opponent in Delaware State, it does represent a winnable game. Coming off a very frustrating two-win season in 2014, the chance to bring Goss into a game would be very good for team morale.

Pretty.Strong. places Chicago Bliss in exciting new light

Blending elements from Hard Knocks and Hockey Wives, incorporating hard-hitting excitement and heartwarming empathy, Oxygen Network’s exploration into the world of female football is a stirring chronicle, documenting the most recent season of the Chicago Bliss. Premiering on October 6 at 10 pm, the docu-series takes a compelling look inside the lives of the female gladiators that grace the Bliss colors, both on and off the field.

Produced by Relativity Television and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment, the Executive Producers include Brad Bishop, Tom Forman and Ellen Rakieten. As the network has traditionally looked at young, multicultural women as its ideal demographic, there is no question that male viewers will also tune in, as they have comprised a large portion of the Bliss fanbase.

Promotional photo for Pretty.Strong (Image obtained from https://www.facebook.com/PrettyStrongOxygen?fref=photo)
Promotional photo for Pretty.Strong (Image obtained from https://www.facebook.com/PrettyStrongOxygen?fref=photo)

Competing in the Legends Football League, the women of the Bliss blend athleticism, respect for the game and its fans, along with a desire to succeed. As one of the league’s most popular franchises, the Bliss have appeared in three consecutive Legends Cup championship matches (2013-15), while capturing back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

Balancing full-time careers, relationships, family obligations and the demands of the gridiron, eight of its remarkable competitors are featured in the program. Viewers shall be introduced to a cast that includes the likes of wide receiver Alli Alberts, center Jamie Barwick, offensive lineman Deena Fagiano, quarterback Heather Furr, running back ChrisDell “Chrissy” Harris, offensive/defensive lineman Nneka Nwani, defensive lineman Yashi Rice and defensive lineman Chantell Taylor.

All unique and diverse individuals, their collaborative efforts on the gridiron represented a cohesive unit that dominated their conference opponents, culminating with an undefeated regular season. Statistically, Alberts was among the league leaders in both defensive and offensive categories, testament to her abilities. Among the highlights in 2015, Alli Alberts made worldwide news by chugging a beer on the field as part of a postgame celebration where she was recognized as the Player of the Game.

Having already seen her image utilized in promotional material for the program, Alli Alberts is poised to become a viewer favorite. Representing a new generation of football hero, Alberts juggles her love of the game with a promising career in dentistry. Growing up, her family had season tickets for the St. Louis Rams, although her initial sporting endeavors involved track and field plus volleyball.

Excelling in a previous sport quickly emerges as a theme among many of the cast members featured in Pretty.Strong. Starting quarterback Heather Furr, a candidate for the Legends Football League Hall of Fame in 2015, once played basketball at the collegiate level. As a side note, fellow teammate and cast member Nneka Nwani also competed on the hardcourt.

Furr is the heartbeat of the Bliss and has played with the team since its inaugural season. Despite her success, which includes two league MVP awards, Furr has approached a crossroads in her career. Thoughts of career, marriage and family have resulted in some very serious soul searching. Having actually retired in 2014, Furr came back within a few weeks as her absence from the game constituted a visceral loss.

The program is a great way for existing football fans to connect with their favorite players, while possibly attracting new fans. An even greater victory may be the opportunity to inspire women to grace the gridiron, opening the doors for women to pursue their sporting ambitions.

An added bonus for viewers shall be the exceptional presence on social media, poised to result in an even stronger connection to the cast and the game. In addition to a facebook page, fans can join in the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #PrettyStrong.

There is also an official site for the show with more than the obligatory exclusives consisting of videos and photos. Players shall be including blogs, covering a wide range of topics beyond the gridiron, such as dating, fitness and lifestyle. There is also an eight-week fitness challenge that looks to inspire. The “Pretty. Strong. Get Fit Challenge” features workout videos by the Bliss players themselves. Accommodating both the beginner and advanced levels, the Bliss players share their tremendous workout tips while also offering encouragement, a hallmark that defines female football.

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PrettyStrongOxygen
References: Oxygen Media