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.

#kristy-moran, #logan-city-jets

Legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno truly one of a kind

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.

AshleySalernoLA

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.

#ashley-salerno, #los-angeles-temptation

Buffalo Bills part of empowering moment in NFL history with addition of Kathryn Smith to coaching staff

For the second time in franchise history, the Buffalo Bills are making a remarkable statement about the role of women in football and sport in general. Thirty years after the franchise hired Linda Bogdan, daughter of Pro Football Hall of Famer Ralph Wilson, to serve as the NFL’s first female scout, eventually becoming a vice president, an historic addition is being made to Rex Ryan’s coaching staff.

Kathryn Smith follows in the groundbreaking footsteps of Dr. Jen Welter, who enjoyed a preseason coaching apprenticeship with the linebacking corps of the Arizona Cardinals. Smith becomes the first full-time member of an NFL coaching staff, appointed to the position of special teams quality control, replacing Michael Hamlin. Of note, she shall work alongside the likes of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman and special teams assistant Eric Smith.

KathrynSmith

The last few years have seen some significant breakthroughs for women in sport. Former WNBA star Becky Hammon became an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, the first woman in NBA history to attain such a position. During the postseason, she would serve as the Spurs head coach in 2015 Summer League play. In December 2015, Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners hired Amanda Hopkins to serve as an area scout, the first female to be hired for a baseball scouting position in this decade.

Of note, she was familiar with Bills’ head coach Rex Ryan. Not only was she his administrative assistant in his final season as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2014, she followed him to his new position with the Buffalo Bills, in a similar coaching capacity. During Ryan’s inaugural season in Buffalo, Smith also served as his administrative assistant.

Having worked with the Jets as head coach from 2009-14, Ryan was obviously very confident in her abilities to contribute in this new role. Prior to making the hiring decision, Ryan did consult with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who had allowed Welter the opportunity to engage in the coaching internship.

The New York Jets served as the backdrop for the pro football experience that Smith attained. Over twelve years with the Bills’ AFC East rival, she occupied a wide variety of positions. From humble beginnings with a 2003 internship in game day/special events, she would enjoy a second internship in 2005, serving in college scouting.

Two years later, she would rise to the role of player personnel assistant. Other women have been influential in the Jets organization, including Dawn Aponte and Jacqueline Davidson, who was appointed director of football administration for the 2015 season. As a side note, Smith had worked as a student manager for the St. John’s University men’s basketball squad.

Adding to the momentum was the fact that Bills co-owner Kim Pegula issued a statement to The Associated Press, acknowledging her qualifications and dedication. Welter and Richie Incognito, a member of the Bills offensive line went to social media to show their support.

Ring ceremony brings Seattle Mist’s championship journey full circle

As the arrival of 2016 brings with it open tryouts for all clubs in Legends Football League, one events allowed for an opportunity to revisit 2015 one last glorious time. The privilege of that event was bestowed upon the remarkable women of the Seattle Mist, who delivered the first championship in franchise history, and the first major championship in the city of Seattle since the Washington Huskies captured the 1991 college football national title.

Rewarded for their historic season with championship rings, it has assured all of them a special place in club lore. A silver-colored ring, that harkens memories of the Raiders Super Bowl rings (the first to abandon the traditional gold colored ring and adopt a silver color instead), the Mist logo is prominent in the mounting, surrounded by gems and emblazoned by the wording “national champions”.

Seattle Mist championship ring (Image obtained from Facebook)

Seattle Mist championship ring (Image obtained from Facebook)

All members of the Mist, including coaching staff were given rings. Beaming with pride, head coach Chris Michaelson, one of the longest serving coaches in league history, displayed his ring on social media, a long overdue achievement in his accomplished career.

Such an amazing and accomplished team was a blend of established talent and free agent acquisitions, resulting in an ideal amalgam that delivered on all accounts. Among the free agent talent available due to the realignment of the league, a remarkable trinity of acquisitions helps set the tone.

Arriving from the now defunct Jacksonville Breeze, quarterback KK Matheny and wide receiver Bryn Renda were nothing short of
dominant, complementing RB Stevi Schnoor, who was the heartbeat of the Mist offense in 2014. Having also played at the flag football level in college, the rapport not only led into offensive synergy, it provided Matheny with a prime receiving target, one that saw Renda frequently deliver in the clutch.

Seattle Mist championship ring ceremony (Image obtained from Facebook)

Seattle Mist championship ring ceremony (Image obtained from Facebook)

Danika Brace enjoyed a heroic welcome to Seattle, capturing the hearts and minds of its loyal fans with one of the greatest defensive performances in league history. It was the prodigal daughter returning home after seasons of exile in Las Vegas, contemplating retirement in the aftermath of a winless 2014 season. Throughout 2015, she worked tirelessly in the defensive trenches helping to inspire confidence.

Avenging their heartbreaking 2014 playoff loss to their eternal rivals LA Temptation, the Mist defeated the two-time champion Chicago Bliss in front of a jubilant hometown crowd at ShoWare Centre. It capped off a remarkable season that also saw the Mist capture the regular season Western Conference crown. Adding to such elation was the fact that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll congratulated them in the aftermath of their championship.

With due deference, the Mist could be seen as an underdog champion, having never played for a title before in franchise history. Despite the obstacles presented, no one could deny them their greatness. Refusing to believe the doubters, instead the Mist believed in themselves. These sensational Seattle Mist competitors definitely earned so much respect among their peers in the league following their championship win; it was enhanced by the selection of seven competitors named as competitors in the
All-Fantasy Game in Guatemala City.

Of all the players who now have their fingers adorned with a stylish ring, the feel-good story belongs to Jessica Hopkins. A charter member of the franchise, its fan base saw Hopkins evolve into more than a leader, but a living legend. Her friendship, graciousness and stoic dedication are all a remarkable source of admiration, gaining new fans every season. Along with Stevi Schnoor, one of the most durable and consistently dependable running backs in the league, they became the first women in LFL history to have won championships in both Canada and the US, having captured a title in 2012 with the BC Angels.

Although some players were not available for the ring ceremony, there is no denying that they held a special place in the hearts of those who attended. The ring signifies the arrival into a gratifying immortality, where a long journey consisted of sweat and sacrifice overcame any struggles, emerging in a victorious vindication, an important symbol of respect.

Photo credit: Richard Deflin Photography

#bryn-renda, #danika-brace, #jessica-hopkins, #kk-matheny, #seattle-mist, #stevi-schnoor

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.

#bryn-renda, #danika-brace, #kk-matheny, #las-vegas-sin, #seattle-mist

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.

#liz-gorman, #tampa-breeze

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.

#april-goss