As the New Year signifies tryouts for Legends Football League teams, the Los Angeles Temptation have found themselves facing significant change, especially at the quarterback position. Having once boasted significant depth at the position, the biggest offseason challenge is finding a signal caller that can transition into a new era, while finding a way to honor a previous era defined by three Legends Cup championships.
Such a road to glory was defined by legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno. While her peers included superlative talents such as Linda Brenner, Christy Bell, Anne Erler, Heather Furr, Nikki Johnson and KK Matheny, all franchise players in their own right, it was Salerno who set the gold standard. Lining up behind center, she helped establish the Temptation as the first dynasty in league history, with three championship banners to show for their dominance.
Only adding to her legend was the fact that she was not only durable, tough enough to receive the most punishing of hits, she could give them too, earning herself a feared yet respected reputation. During the 2013 season, one that signified a transition throughout the league as several teams consisted of new faces, Salerno provided Chicago Bliss rookie Alli Alberts with a “Welcome to pro football” moment.
The result was a viral video that turned both of them into online sensations, inextricably linked during that season. Quite possibly the most famous hit in the history of the league, there were 381,000 views in a time span of roughly one year. Although Alberts had contemplated retirement, she would bounce back to become one of the league’s most popular stars, capturing two Legends Cup titles in the process.
While her Legends Football League career is definitely Hall of Fame worthy, it was not Salerno’s first exposure to the gridiron. Not only were five formative years spent playing with males, she would enjoy four seasons of Jr. All-American Football with the Chino Hills Bulldogs. Of note, Chino Hills would be the sight of another milestone in her great gridiron career.
Attending Ruben Ayala High School, she would make history as the first female to start at the quarterback position. While in high school, Salerno was not just focused on football. She would compete on the hardcourt with the basketball team while also holding roster spots with the school’s golf and soccer teams, respectively.
From a sporting perspective, Salerno may have been her most proficient on the soccer pitch. Competing at the goal keeper position, she gained a scholarship to Cal Poly Pomona, even earning a spot with US Soccer Olympic Development Program in 2004. Eventually, her soccer skills would land her a spot with the Claremont Stars in the WPSL.
While at Cal Poly Pomona, Salerno’s celebrity status as a quarterback with the Los Angeles Tempation proved that talent can never be truly hidden. Specializing in international business and marketing during her time there, her accomplishments outside the classroom were the stuff of gridiron legend.
Recognized as the Legends Football League’s Rookie of the Year for the 2010-11 campaign, she would log 610 total yards from scrimmage, consisting of 421 passing yards, complemented by 189 rushing yards, respectively. Such performance revolutionized the quarterback position in LFL play, while emulating the success of her pro football hero, Steve Young, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.
Complemented by Most Valuable Player honors during one of the Legends Cup victories, one of the most admirable aspects of her gridiron journey was the fact that it was shared with another role model, her father Chris. Originally serving with the club as a medic, he would rise to a coaching position, subsequently strengthening the bond between daughter and proud father, while providing a calming influence.
As the first superstar quarterback in Legends Football League play, part of Salerno’s legacy can be defined by the fact that she emerged as a role model for young women with their own signal calling aspirations. After the league returned from a hiatus in 2012, Salerno’s influence could be seen in the seasons that followed. Young quarterbacks such as Sindy Cummings from the Las Vegas Sin and Atlanta Steam sensation Dakota Hughes followed in her footsteps, while building on her legacy.
Heading into the 2015 campaign, Salerno seemed poised for another great season, eager to avenge a 2014 Western Conference championship game loss. With the Temptation relocating from Ontario, California, now playing their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it should have signified a glorious return home for Salerno. Considering that the Temptation played there during her rookie season, she had matured into an even stronger leader since those early years.
Missing a significant part of an injury riddled 2015; it was Michelle Angel that would provide an admirable performance in absence of Salerno. While the Temptation managed a second place finish, winning 67% of their games, Salerno’s absence was evident as the club placed high dependency on its running game, led by All-Fantasy selection Carmen Bourseau.
Returning for the postseason, Salerno nearly brought the Temptation back to the Legends Cup, which would have been its first appearance since 2011. Losing by less than a touchdown, Salerno was relentless, continuously providing the club with a chance to win against archrival Seattle. In the aftermath, it would prove to be Seattle’s season, winning their first-ever title.
Although Salerno has never announced her retirement, rumors online have stated that she will not be returning for 2016. Taking into account that the season is still several months away, the possibility of Salerno returning cannot be discounted. Danika Brace had announced her retirement after the 2014 season, but returned in 2015, capturing Defensive Player of the Year honors, while leading the Seattle Mist to a championship. Perhaps a season spent resting will reignite Salerno’s competitive fires towards 2017.
Regardless of the final outcome, Salerno’s legacy is one without dispute. Defined by a magical time in which she was the face of the league, her humility and team-first approach only added to her likeability. From modest beginnings at a San Diego tryout to All-Fantasy Games the world over, Salerno shall always be revered as one of the most skillful signal callers, a fascinating character whose talent for the game set stimulated fan interest while setting a stirring tone for her teammates and an entire league.