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Football's just as real in the women's leagues

With a capacity crowd at its opening game in the 1993 season, the junior-varsity football team at Palo Verde High School took the field to battle Rincon High. The game progressed easily for the home team and they led by a healthy margin at halftime. As the third quarter started, the fans were getting restless.

Similar to a scene in Rudy released that year, the crowd began chanting the name of a player they wanted to see put in the game. The name began to echo throughout the stands. Families, students and even the varsity football team shouted "Sher-ry, Sher-ry!" Sherry--a 16-year-old girl--was the second-string quarterback. She joined the game and helped lead her team to an 86-0 victory.

Now a 32-year-old mother of two, Sherry Kammeyer still plays football. While you might think she's out in the backyard playing with her family, that's not the case. Kammeyer plays real, honest-to-goodness professional full contact football--just like the guys.

Kammeyer is co-owner, marketing director and quarterback for the Southern Arizona She Devils--a professional women's football team that is part of the Women's Football Alliance. The She Devils play their first season this year. There are approximately 40 teams in the Alliance with six regions. The Pacific Southwest teams also include the Las Vegas Showgirlz, California Lynx and Phoenix Prowlers.

Surprised? Well, there are other women's football leagues, such as the Independent Women's Football League. They also have about 40 teams, including the Tucson Monsoon.

Kammeyer played for the Monsoon last season and is happy to be playing a larger role in the She Devils organization this year. She looks for ways the team can benefit the community. Each time the women gather for practice, they bring a can of food to donate to the Community Food Bank. And a recent fundraiser helped raise money for the Gospel Rescue Mission.

Another important goal is to get the word out about the team.

"When you're talking to people, they're like, 'Wow, I had no idea there was women's football.' I'm trying to change that."

Kammeyer faced skeptical comments last year while playing for the Monsoon. "People (asked), 'It's actual football?' ... What did you think we were playing? Just because it's women doesn't mean it wasn't tough. There are some big, tough women that will flat knock you out because you are on the field."

She sums up her thought with a great tagline: "It's nothing personal. It's football."

And it's all business. These women practice two and a half hours three times a week. They play the same way NFL teams do, only with a junior-size football. The She Devils are set to play eight regular games in the season--four home and four away--beginning on April 18. Tickets will be $5.

"It's not like we get together on Saturday and play flag football. We travel--as women, mothers, daughters, sisters--who have other lives. We pack up with all of our football gear, go get beat up and beat up on other people and come home. It's a pretty unique situation."

Also unique are the players themselves. You don't find the typical, big, butch woman on the field. Kammeyer is an attractive blonde who could pass for a cheerleader. And with a slender 5-foot-6 build, she looks more like a runner than a quarterback.

"You see women that you'd find at the gym, at the grocery store, at the mall. We have girly girls that come out. It's a little bit of everything. That is surprising and awesome."

The She Devils range in age from a 16-year-old to a 55-year-old. A mother and daughter are also on the team. The team is still recruiting and will post its team roster--with name, age, height and weight--on its Web site (www.azshedevils.com) once it's official.

"We want everyone to know that we are only this age or we are already this age or we are a rookie or not. This is a personal team choice. (The players) are proud of their body size."

Is this an alternate universe? Women are playing football and are proud to announce their age, height and weight? I say cheers to Kammeyer and her teammates. In this world of trying to be thin, wrinkle-free and ageless, it's great to see these women cherish who they are. And they just happen to play football.

Yes, we'll only see men playing on Super Bowl Sunday, but on the neighborhood fields in Tucson, the She Devils are one team breaking the old stereotype that football is only a man's sport. Sorry, guys. It's nothing personal. It's football.

More by Irene Messina

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