Remy Olinzock a welcome addition for powerhouse Pittsburgh Passion

As one of the most accomplished female football franchises in the Rust Belt, the Pittsburgh Passion have built a remarkable sporting legacy. Heading into the 2015 campaign, one of the newest acquisitions looking to contribute to said legacy was a highly talented and well-conditioned spitfire known as Remy Olinzock.

Having competed in indoor women’s football in Cleveland and Toledo, Olinzock was not only one of the club’s fan favorites, but exemplified strong leadership. Earning All-Conference honors at her position, she was a beacon of optimism on a team that tried valiantly to place victories in the wins column.

During the winter of 2014, Olinzock was one of several American female football players that travelled to Australia to participate in a series of exhibition games. Competing against a pair of All-Star teams from Australia and New Zealand, Olinzock proudly donned the red, white and blue, while making new friends and establishing herself as an ambassador for the gridiron game.

Suiting up with the Pittsburgh Passion as a free agent, Olinzock immediately paid dividends. Displaying a strong love of the game (one of the hallmarks in her great career), she quickly proved to be one of the finest free agent acquisitions in IWFL football. She was part of a bright first-year class that included Rosie Christian, Jessica Melodia and Hannah Daman, the first girl to play football at Central Valley High School.

With Olinzock’s mother proudly in attendance at home games, showing encouragement and love, it only added to what has become an unforgettable season. This complements the positive impact of her father, who has been her biggest supporter, attending every game in Cleveland, Toledo and Pittsburgh.

In her Passion debut, a 66-0 trouncing of the Toledo Reign, the Star Junction, PA-raised Olinzock had three carries for 61 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown run, the first of her IWFL career. In that same game, fellow running back Sarah Niedermeyer also contributed her first IWFL touchdown.

In action with the Pittsburgh Passion (Image obtained from Facebook)
In action with the Pittsburgh Passion (Image obtained from Facebook)

Another match against Toledo saw Olinzock rush 18 yards for a touchdown in front of a jubilant home crowd, part of a 63-0 whitewash, their 43rd shutout in franchise history. Throughout the season, she would share running back duties with Tara Catone, Tia Montgomery and Niedermeyer, along with providing superlative shows of perseverance on special teams.

A June 27 postseason tilt with the legendary New York Sharks resulted in Olinzock recovering an onside kick and running it back for a touchdown. It would prove to be a crucial play as the Passion emerged victorious in a 35-28 final, while earning the right to play for the Eastern Conference championship.

By season’s end, Olinzock had the opportunity to compete in the 2015 IWFL Championship Game in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Facing a 24-20 halftime deficit, the Passion prevailed in a dramatic come-from-behind fashion, defeating the Utah Falconz by a 41-37 mark for their third championship. Through it all, Olinzock’s enthusiasm, love of the game and encouraging smile contributed to a season that culminated in a 22-game winning streak, 95 franchise wins overall and the third undefeated season in Passion history.


Dream season concludes for Pittsburgh Passion with IWFL title

After spending the last three seasons in the Women’s Football Alliance, the Pittsburgh Passion returned to their roots, spending the 2014 football season in the Independent Women’s Football League. In the season’s aftermath, it was the assembly of one of the most dominant teams in IWFL history.

Having emerged from championship weekend in Rock Hill, South Carolina as league champions, it was a fitting end to a season filled with many memorable moments. The road to the championship began with a 29-6 victory against the Carolina Phoenix on April 12, also the 100th game in franchise history, setting the tone for the season to come.

Triumphs against contending franchises such as the New York Sharks and Montreal Blitz helped the Passion jump to a 4-0 mark, quickly establishing them as the team to beat in IWFL circles. After defeating Carolina for the second time on May 17, the last three games of the regular season included a 21-6 win against New York, a 31-0 whitewash against state rival, the Philadelphia Firebirds and a 38-6 trouncing of Baltimore.


Despite a convincing 41-7 victory against the Houston Energy, it was a victory well-earned. Of note, Houston entered the game with a pair of players from the US National Team that captured gold at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds; Alberta Fitcheard-Bryson and Dr. Jen Welter. Of note, the two also suited up for the Dallas Diamonds in the 2013 Women’s Football Alliance championship game.

The chance for fans in attendance to see Passion QB Lisa Horton line up against Jen Welter (who played at the linebacker position with the Energy), was an epic confrontation, pitting two living legends against each other. Of note, Welter made a remarkable mark on football history, becoming the first woman to play in a non-kicking position in men’s pro football.

Lisa Horton, who would be honored as the IWFL’s Most Valuable Player would also find her name in the headlines this year. Becoming the second woman to throw for 10,000 career passing yards, it was the cementing of her legacy as one of the greatest female quarterbacks ever. She would end the season as one of eight Passion players named to the IWFL First Team All-Stars.

For the proud Passion, Horton’s milestone would be part of many more exciting moments that defined the year. The victory against the Montreal Blitz (the defending IWFL Tier II champs) resulted in Amanda Haeg logging her 100 career reception. She would end her season by becoming the first player in franchise history to have 1,000 rushing, 1,000 passing and 1,000 receiving yards.

Passion players at a civic rally honoring their championship win. Players were also greeted by Mayor Bill Peduto (Image obtained from Facebook)
Passion players at a civic rally honoring their championship win. Players were also greeted by Mayor Bill Peduto (Image obtained from Facebook)

Another milestone in the game against Montreal was Horton establishing a career-high with 380 passing yards. Horton would also contribute to another special milestone, as wide receiver Rachel Wodjowski registered 2,000 career receiving yards in a victory against the Sharks.

By season’s end, the Passion recorded 278 points scored, while allowing only 24. In addition to four shutouts (tying a team mark), the Passion set a new team record with 26 sacks. This was complemented by Ciara Chic reaching the milestone of 1,000 career rushing yards.

In a city whose proud football tradition includes multiple national collegiate titles with the Pitt Panthers, and a Steelers franchise transformed by the Rooney family into a model organization, the Passion can now claim their spot in Steeltown’s sporting history. The team was even the recipient of a special honor as July 31 was officially declared Pittsburgh Passion Day. A rally was held to honor the team and featured civic officials such as Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto, showing a remarkable gesture of civic pride.

Their performance shall forever hold a place in the heart of Passion fans. A group of remarkable women playing in a remarkable time for the growth of the game, the 2014 edition of the Pittsburgh Passion are a once-in-a-lifetime team.

Dr. Jen Welter adds to female football legacy with appearance in IWFL Title Game

In a year that has seen Dr. Jen Welter’s football career grow by a quantum leap, football fans at Rock Hill, South Carolina were ecstatic at the opportunity to see this legendary player in action. Suiting up for the Houston Energy, she competed in the 2014 edition of the Independent Women’s Football League Tier I title game.

Joined by Alberta Fitcheard-Bryson, who played alongside Welter with the gold-medal winning contingent at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, it provided Houston with a fighting chance. As a side note, the two competed with the Dallas Diamonds in the 2013 Women’s Football Alliance national title game.

Competing against the undefeated Pittsburgh Passion, it was part of a remarkable showcase in female football. In addition to the complement of the IWFL All-Star Game, the weekend events were comprised of two other championship games. Including the Founders Bowl (the Tier II championship game), a 31-14 for the Madison Blaze over the Baltimore Nighthawks, fans were also privy to the third annual Legacy Bowl. The Carolina Queens would gain their third straight Bowl win with a 28-22 triumph against the Minnesota Vixen.

Over the last few months, Welter has established herself as more than just a sporting hero and an empowering role model for women. This highly educated, determined and distinguished individual was transformed into a pop culture icon. As the first woman to compete in a non-kicking position in men’s pro football, Welter’s tenure with the Texas Revolution captured the hearts and minds of sports and non-sports fans alike.

Playing for the entire season with the Revolution, Welter’s performance proved that women should not only pursue their dreams, but believe in themselves. Although she was not on the active travel roster for some of the Revs road games, her demeanor, maturity and team-first attitude were remarkable. Her 5’2’ frame resulted in approaching the men’s game differently, employing a willingness to learn, the sign of a character athlete. Despite the size limitations in the men’s game, meaning she could not be the go-to athlete she was in the women’s game, the support of team veteran Clinton Solomon contributed to maintaining her confidence and motivation.

Such a remarkable milestone was complemented by the opportunity to be the only female to compete in the Army Veterans vs. Navy Veterans Indoor Football Game. It was a proud yet emotional moment for Welter. Of note, her father Peter served as a medic during the Vietnam War. In addition to being the recipient of the Silver Star, he was bestowed with the Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal, the Air Medal, the Combat Bridge Medal during his military service.

Contested at the University of Pennsylvania Class of 1923 Arena , video footage of her tackle in the game became an online sensation. In the game, Army rallied from a 29-28 fourth quarter deficit to prevail by a 43-36 tally. As a side note, Welter would also make an appearance at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, even appearing on the dugout with famed mascot, the Philly Phanatic.

Considering that Welter was not part of the Diamonds roster this season, female football fans in Dallas could not help feel that the team’s complexion was different without her. Suiting up for Houston validated the hopes of female football fans that she would come back and play in the game that she helped to build. Emotions also ran high for the franchise as it was Erica Criswell’s final game.

Despite the fact that the Passion completed their undefeated season in storybook fashion with a 41-7 victory against a valiant Houston squad, the outcome is far from relevant. Showing loyalty to her football roots, it was an event that indicated Welter will eternally remain a hero in female football circles.

The true winner on this championship evening was women’s football itself. From the presence of two distinct yet highly amazing football legends gracing the gridiron, Welter and Lisa Horton, the long-time quarterback who reached the fabled 10,000 career yard passing plateau, it was a landmark event which may serve as the launching pad towards greater moments to come.