Before the game, I got on my gear and felt the nerves kick in. This was going to be my first game since my injury and I wanted to show well. Once the gear was on, we went to line up behind the field that the AFC was just practicing on. We got led onto the field and went to our sideline. There were still thousands of fans left from the Pro Bowl practices milling around. For many of them, this was this first time seeing women’s football so we wanted to prove we could play.
During the warm ups, I turned around just in time to see Dez Bryant running right behind me towards the tent where the players were eating lunch.
The game is set up similar to the All-American games in that you end up with a lot of people in your position group and there is a rotation so everyone can play. This is good but also tough because it’s hard to get in a cohesive rhythm.
The first time I was out on defense they called a blitz for me and I stuffed the run for a 2 yard loss. Man that felt good! Electricity went through my body and I felt like I was home. I was playing the red team and we actually started out pretty solid on defense. Our offense kind of sputtered in the first half before settling in.
I was playing decent and had a few tackles. I felt like I was getting my feet wet again. Then there was a play on the edge where Carla “Smiley” Odom LAID this girl OUT. I thought it was fumble so I jumped on the ball right before it was going to skid out of bounce. Unfortunately, they ruled it incomplete.
Then I read an outside run by OJ Jenkins, who has always been very quick, and with the help of the leverage from the outside players I tracked her down for a minimal gain. This was a confidence builder because if I can track OJ down while at about 80 percent, I might be able to still play this game.
Right before the first half they called another blitz for me. The offensive line splits were HUGE. Really, I had wanted to attack them all game so I was excited when they called another blitz. The cadence had gotten a bit more predictable so I waited for the right moment…and at the snap of the ball got through the hole so fast I nearly blew up the quarterback before she got the ball off. She had a great throw and the receiver went up and made a play. We looked at each other and smiled. So close.
My team ended up losing the game but just being back on the field felt amazing. After it ended, we all received medals, took a bunch of pictures, and then we went to the cafeteria to change out of our gear. I found Alexis who had had a great game. The first half I kept thinking to myself on the sideline. Give the ball to Alexis. Give the ball to Alexis. Maybe the ESP worked because she tore off some monster runs once she did get the ball.
We changed and worked our way up to the restaurant upstairs and ordered a large and well deserved lunch. After we ate, we worked our way down to the field to watch the intermediate and last game of the camp. We had a lot of our friends in this game so we took pictures and tried to stay warm.
It was at this point that I started to feel a bit emotional. I felt relief and satisfaction that I had gotten through the entire 10 days and played in a game without issue. The 3 months on crutches and relearning to walk suddenly washed over me as I realized I completed what I had set out to do.
We went back to the hotel after to shower and get ready to celebrate the end of our camp. We met up at a club in Orlando and danced half the night away. Well, at least I got as low as I could being sore. Julia McComas got a special shout out by the club for her birthday. There were different rooms with different kinds of music. Even a drag show. We had a blast.
January 29 – Pro Bowl
Sunday was kind of a free day for us. We slept in and got our bags repacked. We then went outlet mall shopping since the rain drowned out the original beach day plan. We had enough time to go back to the hotel and relax before making the trek to the Pro Bowl.
We had decided to try to get there as early as possible. It was about an hour away from our hotel with traffic. Parking took forever but we managed to find a decently priced lot fairly close by. We walked through security without issue and picked up some souvenirs at the shop.
Our seats were on the 200 level. Not the nosebleeds but right under that. I picked up some food and we found our seats. It turns out that it was freezing that night. We were all cold and poor Alexis about shivered out of her shoes.
Gradually more of our group filtered into the stands and we had a whole section of us with our jerseys on. At one point, several players went down to the field to be recognized as representatives from the camp and their respective countries and we got a shout out on the big screen.
The game itself was fun to be at but not very entertaining from a football standpoint. Having been frozen to the benches and knowing we had to get up early for flights, we ended up leaving just before half time.
The next day we woke up at like 4am so we could all get to the airport. I crashed hard on my first flight from Orlando to San Francisco. I had just enough time to grab a quick lunch and jump on the next plane to Seattle. My girlfriend picked me up from the airport and I went home to take the longest nap ever.
TEAM USA Announcement
When I got back to Seattle, I was slammed immediately by chaos at work for being gone for 10 days so this helped to distract me from waiting to hear the announcement of who made the team. After that, I spent many minutes of my daily life checking my email and facebook about a thousand times a day, trying to see if anything had been announced.
Finally, this last Saturday, I was at practice for my home team and as I was leaving the field, I checked my phone and I got a text from Alexis to check my email. I checked it, found the list, and my name was not on it. I texted a congrats to Alexis who of course made it.
A flood of conflicting emotion smacked me in the gut. I walked the remaining yards to my car in a daze. I got in the car and sat there for a moment and took a deep breath. I then went back to the list and still didn’t see my name. I then scrolled the rest of the list and saw my teammate Mckenzie Tolliver’s name in the defensive back section.
I immediately got out of my car, and sprinted all the way back to the field screaming, “Mckenzie!” until I finally got there and gave her the biggest hug. She got teary eyed. I got teary eyed. She was touched that I ran all the way back for her when she knew I didn’t make it. I was just so proud of the player I told a couple of years ago that if she works hard at this that she would be one of the best DB’s in the country.
I then went back to my car and drove home. Not sure what to really do. I think it hit me harder than I thought it would. Was I proud I came back from an injury that most people would have given up on? Yes. Was the competitive athlete in me pissed that I didn’t produce enough to make the team? Yes. Anyone who says they aren’t upset when they come up short on a long term dream is lying. Michael and Kobe never celebrated losing. If you are an athlete you want to win.
Then I took joy in the fact that some of my friends made it. That honestly was a great reprieve because football is family and when your family is happy you celebrate.
Then I went back to analyzing because I’m analytical person. I went back over the tryouts. The plays I made. Mistakes I made. Feeling simultaneously like I was getting more comfortable back on the field and like I knew I wasn’t 100 percent yet. Maybe I ran out of time and I just wasn’t ready.
Then after a few days of a roller coaster of emotion I have decided to settle on the fact that I got back on the field and even not healthy I still competed. Even without my normal speed I still competed. I got off mental rust and regained my confidence.
The first time I saw the orthopedic doctor I looked him in the eye and said this is when the tryouts are. This is my goal. Is this possible? At first he said no. Then after a successful surgery and many months of rehab he said yes.
I had circled that tryout as the end of my rehab. The measuring stick of my success. I completed that marker. I think the realization is that there is a final phase left to complete and that is to regain speed and to regain wholeness. I had completed what I thought was the finish line and realized it’s just the check point.
My doctor had told me that if I did this right that I could end up stronger than before the injury and I think he is right. I was always a hard worker but the habits I developed out of necessity to get back on the field are going to turn me into a better player when I turn that corner at 100 percent.
I am now focused on the regular season with my Seattle Majestics. We are stacked this year with talent everywhere. I can now face this season knowing that the world better look out for when I hit that turf because I feel I have a lot to prove.
In the meantime, I will remember this trip for its challenges and most of all its laughs. Like the following two videos that will forever be stuck in my memory.