Pair of female NFL pioneers become real life superheroes

Both recognized among espnW’s Impact 25, Dr. Jen Welter and Sarah Thomas earned a unique honor. All 25 women recognized for their impact in sport were given the superhero treatment as Marvel Comics and espnW teamed up for a unique and exciting concept. All the subject of unique artwork, the remarkable members of the Impact 25 were depicted as superheroes.

Taking into account that both football and the comics industry were long considered male dominated industries, it was truly fitting that a pair of female artists worked on the renditions of both football pioneers. Welter, who became a household name for her impact as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals during the 2015 NFL preseason, was drawn by Natacha Bustos. As a side note, Bustos would also do the artwork for Diana Taurasi, another member of the Impact 25.

Sarah Thomas by Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg / Jen Welter by Natacha Bustos Read More: ESPN and Marvel Display the Heroism of Women in Sports |
Sarah Thomas by Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg / Jen Welter by Natacha Bustos
Read More: ESPN and Marvel Display the Heroism of Women in Sports |

Nicole Virella and Rachelle Rosenberg teamed up for the rendition of Thomas. The pencils and inks were handled by Virella while Rosenberg took the coloring duties. The first female official in league history, Thomas is part of an exciting time for the growing role of women in football. During the preseason, Thomas would officiate a game featuring the Cardinals, getting the chance to meet Welter. As a side note, Rosenberg also did the coloring for the images of Lauren Greenfield, Chloe Kim and Carli Lloyd, all recognized by espnW.

Perhaps even more unique was the fact that all depictions featured nicknames. Welter went by the sobriquet “The Ball Buster” while Thomas was dubbed “The Penalizer”. As all 25 women were honored at a gala in New York City, they were given a rendition of the artwork in a frame with a bow, a fitting tribute to the gift they provided sports fans and young athletes alike with their aspiring presence.


NFL Women’s Summit adds to growing momentum of women in football

Part of the excitement of the annual Super Bowl involves a week’s worth of unique and special events. From the “Taste of the NFL”, which features foods from every NFL market, to “The NFL Honors”, a new event is added, which serves to encourage and empower. The inaugural NFL Women’s Summit: “In the Huddle to Advance Women in Sport” is a superlative way to recognize the efforts of women in football. Whether it be through the groundbreaking IFAF Women’s Worlds, USA Football’s initiatives, or other groundbreaking moves, such as Dr. Jen Welter and Katrhyn Smith gaining coaching opportunities, not to mention Sarah Thomas as a line judge, the NFL is working towards setting a positive example of continuing to find ways to influence.

Considering that this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Super Bowl, the Women’s Summit holds an even stronger meaning. While the popular of football is without dispute, its commitment to recognizing the potential of women in football and sport in general, shows remarkable sincerity, reinforced by the attendance of NFL commissioner Roger Goddell. Hosted on February 4 and 5 in San Francisco (the host city for the game), it represented a remarkable gathering of some of the most prominent women in sport and society. Among such women, one holds ownership ties to the Miami Dolphins.

Recognized as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2015, Serena Williams and her sister Venus both hold an ownership stake in the Dolphins, the first women of African-American heritage to claim such prestige. Serena was on-hand as she was interviewed by former ESPN analyst Robin Roberts along with Condoleeza Rice, the former US Secretary of State who cheers for the Cleveland Browns. As a side note, Rice was the Chancellor of Stanford University when legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh served as the head of their football program.

Image obtained from Facebook
Image obtained from Facebook

An additional element featured a panel of five remarkable women in football. Currently with USA Football, Sam Rapoport, a former quarterback of the Montreal Blitz, has been instrumental in making the Women’s World Football Games a key event in developing the game and its talent. Joining her was former Dallas Diamonds superstar Dr. Jen Welter, whose accomplishments breaking gender barriers as a player and coach are legendary.

Line judge Sarah Thomas, who was the first female official in NFL history also joined the panel. It was an opportunity to reunite with Welter. During the presence, Welter had a coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals. During a preseason game that involved the Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas had officiating duties, marking the first-ever NFL contest to feature women in both a coaching and officiating role.

Two female executives with the NFL’s franchises in the Bay Area, the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers were also part of said panel. Qiava Martinez serves as a Vice President of Premier Seating and Services with the Raiders. Perhaps more importantly, her role is a proud extension of Amy Trask’s legacy, the first female chief executive in NFL history, a role that she held with the same Raiders. The 49ers were represented by Ali Towle, a VP of Marketing for the five-time Super Bowl champions and host franchise for Super Bowl 50.

While the event featured over 250 guests, there was still accessibility as all facets were live streamed through AOL, whose site is a remarkable collection (and reference point) that chronicles how sport has transformed the lives of women. Fans are also encouraged to follow the Summit via Twitter and share comments throughout social media with the hashtag #inthehuddle.

Perhaps the most redeeming aspect of the Summit was the fact that the positive messages throughout extended beyond football. It was a forum filled with encouragement that not only showed the positive influence of sport in the lives of women, but its themes can also apply to the professional aspirations that women have.

Star running back Kristy Moran a legend for the Logan City Jets

As the early months of the calendar year signify pro football playoffs in the United States, Australia enjoys its summer months, setting the stage for an exciting chapter in female sport there. With the Female Gridiron League of Queensland becoming home to some of the finest tackle football players down under, such an empowering league is headlined by superstars such as Kristy Moran.

One of the franchise players of the Logan City Jets, Moran is at the heartbeat of its offense, while serving as one of the league’s most popular and recognizable players. During the inaugural season of the FGLQ, the Jets grabbed the league’s first championship. Known as the Summerbowl, Moran was part of a 38-20 triumph against the Kenmore Panthers. The success of the FGLQ would spawn other leagues throughout Australia’s provinces, including New South Wales and Victoria.

Such a development would have a direct impact on Moran’s career. While she continued to play with the Jets in the FGLQ, there was also a to be contested on a national level. Of note, players from all three provinces would become eligible for roster spots on the Queensland SunDevils, an impromptu All-Star team. The result was a roster of elite talent that would compete for the Womens Australian Gridiron League National Championship game in 2014.

On their way to the 2014 national title, Moran was pure magic with the Sun Devils. Against the New South Wales Coyotes, she proved to be the factor in a convincing 42-6 victory. Contested at the Hurtsville Oval in Sydney, Moran assembled a solid ground game of over 200 rushing yards. While teammate Jodie Carl also scored a touchdown, a pair of quarterback sacks by Teri Nukz helped set the tone, as Moran’s superlative performance nullified the valiant efforts of Coyotes quarterback Nicole Morley.
Advancing against ACT (Australia’s Capital Territory) Gridiron Monarchs for championship bragging rights, Moran remained the focal point for the Sun Devils. In the aftermath of a 14-6 final in favor of Queensland, Moran added another significant milestone, obtaining Game MVP honors.

Her 43 yard touchdown run just before halftime provided Queensland with the 8-6 lead, helping shift momentum and perhaps confidence in its favor. With quarterback Denise Pepe (an FGLQ rival with the Gold Coast Sea Wolves) orchestrating a late game drive, it was Moran who would score with 10 seconds remaining, providing Queensland with the prestige of being national champions.

An historic honor for Moran complemented another series of MVP nods. Considering that the Jets have enjoyed three straight trips to the Summerbowl (winning in 2012 and 2014), Moran was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of Summerbowl II. Despite the Gold Coast Stingrays prevailing by a 12-8 count, Moran became the first player from a losing team to obtain such an honor.

In that same season, Moran was recognized as the FGLQ’s Offensive Most Valuable Player, marking the second straight season that a Jets player earned an end of season award. In 2012, Hayley Peterson, who was also bestowed the honor of the MVP in Summerbowl I, was recognized as the League MVP, respectively.

While Moran and Peterson have a mutual respect for each other, there is definitely a friendly rivalry between the two. Of note, both share the record for most touchdowns in an FGLQ game. Peterson would become the first to set the record, scoring four touchdowns against the Gold Coast Sea Wolves on August 31, 2013.

Moran would not just match the record, running for daylight on four separate occasions against an overwhelmed Western Jaguars squad on November 8, 2013, she would duplicate such success a second time. One week later, a rematch against the Jaguars saw Moran maintain her dominant ways, managing another sterling four touchdown performance.

Throughout such an incredible football journey, part of Moran’s likeability is defined by her humility. Devoted to her teammates, her football legacy is not just based on her legendary play, but her ability to stand proudly as a role model. Championing the highly admirable #nojokefootball campaign, there is no question that Moran shall likely a remain a key figure in the growth of the game.