Minutes after the Chicago Force defeated the St. Louis Slam 46-6 in a Women’s Football Alliance game last Saturday at Lindenwood University-Belleville, Slam head coach Quincy Davis met with his team near midfield.
A group of 43 players from throughout the St. Louis area ranging in age from 18 to 47 and from every social and economic background imaginable listened intently as their coach went over what went wrong in the 40-point setback.
For some of these football players, the sport is a hobby. It’s way to exercise their bodies as well as the competitive drive with which they were born. For others, it’s a way to connect to others who who share a dream they have had since first tossing the football with mom or dad in the backyard.
For all, it’s a passion worth the personal expense, time and weekends away.
Yes, women play football, too.
“I just love the game. It’s the greatest sport in the world,” said Slam wide receiver Gail Lacy, a resident of Columbia. “It’s just great to be part of a team and all of us working hard toward one goal. It’s just so much fun.”
The coaches and players are all volunteers and we are out here because they want to be here, because they love the sport of football. These ladies work normal jobs during the day and then two or three times a week we’ll practice.
Quincy Davis, St. Louis Slam head coach
In her 11th year of playing football, Lacy, 43, is truly one of the veterans on a Slam team, which won the Women’s Football Alliance Championship in 2009. The franchise took a break from competition in 2014 to rebuild and restructure under the leadership of co-owners Davis and Rohmell Glover. The team returned last year to earn a playoff spot and finished with a 6-3 season.
The Women’s Football Alliance launched in 2007 and currently has 43 teams that spreads the nation. Teams range from the Tacoma (Wash.) Trauma to the Orlando (Fla.) Anarchy.
A member of the WFA’S Midwest Region/Great Plains Division of the American Conference, the Slam entered the game with the Chicago Force with a 1-1 record following a 36-26 loss at Kansas City two weeks ago. St. Louis opened its season with a 71-0 thrashing of the Derby City Dynamite on April 2.
But on this night, the Chicago Force, which featured former Freeburg and Washington University athlete Allison Alberts, proved to have too many weapons for the Slam to handle. Running an offensive scheme based on misdirection, The Force jumped out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter and getting five touchdown runs from quarterback Rasan Gore were never threatened.
Then again, wins and losses aren’t everything. In this league, dedication counts extra.
The Women’s Football Association launched in 2007 and currently has 43 teams as wide spread as Tacoma (Wash.) Trauma to the Orlando (Fla.) Anarchy. The St. Louis Slam is a member of the Midwest Region/Great Plains Division of the American Conference.
“The players are a special group of women. There is no financial compensation. They don’t get paid to play football,” Davis said. “The coaches and players are all volunteers and we are out here because they want to be here, because they love the sport of football. These ladies work normal jobs during the day and then two or three times a week we’ll practice. After working eight-or-nine hour days to come out and practice football, it shows how much they love the sport.”
Wide receiver, Edwardsville
The Slam trailed 26-0 before quarterback Jamie Gaal connected with former Edwardsville High School standout Kaylee Neutzling on a touchdown pass of about 20 yards.
The hopes of a Slam comeback proved to be short-lived. Six plays later, Gore scored her fourth touchdown of the night as Chicago extended its lead to 32-6.
Listed as a defensive back on the Slam roster, Neutzling was all over the field on Saturday. Showing what made her a star soccer player both at Edwardsville High School and at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Neutzling handled the punting and kickoff duties as well as playing both offense and defense.
“Taylor (Hay) and I went to high school together. She’s older then I am, but she’s the one who told me about playing football. I’m super competitive and I love competing so this was a good way for me to do it. I’ve been playing four years now and I just love it,” Neutzling said. “It’s a hectic time during football season but I don’t mind. I just love being out here and playing football with all of my teammates. They’re all like family now.”
A 2008 graduate of Edwardsville High School, Neuztling earned a degree in criminal justice in 2013 and currently holds down a full-time job in Maryville. Now in her fourth year with the Slam, Neutzling has no immediate plans to quit.
Neutzling’s biggest fan is her mother, Alisa Adair, who admits it’s difficult to watch her daughter get tackled, but thinks it only natural that a lifetime athlete would want to continue competing.
“I am really proud of her for being such a humble person. She is not only a fabulous athlete but one of the best people anyone could ever want to know,” she said. “It’s hard for me to watch sometimes, but I wouldn’t miss a step in her life so I have finally converted from soccer mom to football mom,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
I’m one of these people who need competition. I love to compete and I love to win. If you beat me one day then I’m going to beat you the next.
Jessica Foote, wide receiver
“I’m going to play as long as as my body lets me,” Neutzling said. “I still get excited about putting on a uniform and running on a field and working as a unit with people I know and respect. We’re all out here because we want to be. I love this and being able to meet new people from all over the country.”
Running back, Edwardsville
Standing a mighty 4-foot-10 and weighing in at 140 pounds, Taylor Hay is another former Edwardsville High School soccer player turned Slam running back. Lightning quick with a huge heart, Hay had a tough night against Chicago’s big and athletic defensive front, breaking off just one run of 10 yards or more.
But the fact that Hay is playing sports at a high level — football, no less — in her mid-20s is something she would never have imagined a few years ago.
“I played soccer at Edwardsville and one of the coaches with the Slam, Rodney Lacy, used to teach at Edwardsville High School,” she recalled during a pregame warmup. “One day he said to me ‘when you are done playing soccer in college, why don’t you come out and give us a try?’ At first, I’m like no way — girls playing football at that level? There’s no way I can compete with them.
“But after I graduated from Missouri Baptist University, there were no soccer leagues to play in and I still had the desire to compete. I called and asked him if there was still football. He said to come on out.”
Six years later, Hay is still competing.
After playing her first three years with the Slam, Hay played the 2014 season in Kansas City while the St. Louis club took a year off. She’s back in her hometown doing what she loves.
We’re all like family on this football team.
Pamela Green, offensive line
“This is a high level of football. We wear pads, were run real plays,” Hay said. “What I like about football the most is that there is a spot for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are small, thin, chunky or slow, there is a spot for you to play football in this league. I had never been hurt until this year when I had the injured hip flexor. But I still want to play for as long as I can. I’m shooting for another 10 years. That would make me 38. But we’ll see.”
Wide receiver, Breese
A personal trainer in the Breese area, 29-year-old Jessica Foote didn’t set out to be a football player and really didn’t know much about the Slam until reading that the organization was having tryouts a little over two years ago.
“I saw it on Facebook actually and my first reaction was like, ‘I can’t play football, I’m too small,’” the 5-foot-4, 130-pound wide receiver said. “But after I thought about it, I’m like, ‘Why not? The worst thing that can happen is that I don’t make it.’ Well, I made it. and I’m having a great time.”
A 2005 graduate of Mater Dei, she played basketball, softball and competed for coach David Kohnen on the Knights’ cross country program. Foote went on to play college soccer at Illinois College in Jacksonville.
Like the others, Foote missed the competition once her college days were over.
“I’m one of these people who need competition. I love to compete and I love to win,” Foote said. “If you beat me one day then I’m going to beat you the next. That’s just the way I am. It’s the way I’ve always been.”
What I like about football the most is that there is a spot for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are small, thin, chunky or slow, there is a spot for you to play football in this league.
Taylor Hay, running back
A gifted athlete, Foot said her athletic training in other sports throughout the years have made her more agile and given her the ability to perform for the Storm at a high level.
“From a conditioning point of running in cross country and then the running you do in basketball and soccer, it’s really helped and then being able to start and stop and make cuts on the basketball court and soccer fields have helped me become a wide receiver,” Foote said. “Like I said, I’m having a great time. Hopefully I’ll be able to play a few more years yet.”
Offensive line, Fairview Heights
The unsung heroes for any football team are the players on the trenches — the offensive and defensive lines. Such is the case with Slam offensive lineman Pamela Green, who when asked her age prior to the game on Saturday just smiled and gave a quick response.
“I graduated from here (Belleville West) in 1998. That makes me old,” Green said. “I’m going to keep playing for as long as I can. I’ve been lucky, never been hurt much. I just love playing football. Been a big fan all my life. Yes, I’m going to keep playing for as long as I can. As long as my body allows me to.”
Green has always been an athlete. A standout basketball and track and field competitor for the Maroons in the mid-to-late 1990s, Green was thrilled to be playing at the school she attended nearly two decades ago.
“It’s great to be home. I’m hoping I’ll have some family members and friends come watch me play tonight,” Green said minutes before kickoff. “This league is great. We’re all like family on this football team.”
The St. Louis Slam plays its home games at Lindenwood University-St. Charles. The Slam is back in action on Saturday when it travels to play the Indy Crush.
St. Louis returns home on May 28 against the Kansas City Dynamite.