Pro flag football league founder: There's 'tremendous' potential for women to play
Two months after a woman earned a football scholarship, the AFFL says 'everything is on the table'
Eighteen-year-old Becca Longo made history when she inked a National Letter of Intent to play for Adams State University in Colorado this spring, becoming the first womanat the Division II level or higher.
She wants to keep making history.
And if the headliners of the upstart American Flag Football League are to be believed, Longo -- and women in general -- could very well have a future on the professional gridiron.
Michael Vick, everyone's favorite "Madden" quarterback who recently retired as an icon of the Atlanta Falcons and one of the test-run starters in the pro flag league, got the conversation started when discussing his own daughter's flag football experience with Bleacher Report.
"The one thing I understand is that girls got game, too. I watch my daughter play, and she's doing some of the things that I was doing in seven-on-seven. Circling around, moving a little bit -- it looked like she'd been watching me! That motivated me to be a part of the league. There are a lot of women who itch to play the game of football, and I think anybody can do anything they put their mind to."
Jeff Lewis, a former New York hedge fund manager who founded the AFFL, said women won't immediately be a part of his flag league, which opens tournament play in 2018 after this week's pilot debut in San Jose, California.
Sooner rather than later, though, he anticipates an uptick in female athletes on the football field.
"Everything is on the table as far as what's possible," Lewis said. "I would definitely expect to see a variety of people play."
Inviting women into football, he added, could be easier for an entity like the AFFL, which prioritizes speed over contact in contrast to the physicality of the NFL.
"I think it has a tremendous amount of potential as a women's game," he said. "There's a lot here that is missing from tackle football."
The International Women's Flag Football Association already offers international competition for females, hosting tournaments that extend into Central America and the Caribbean regions. But it is owned and operated exclusively by women, whereas something like the AFFL would act as a professional co-ed platform for athletes of the highest tier.
Four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia, most recently an offensive assistant with the St. Louis Rams and one of the color commentators for the AFFL opener, knows the passion for the game is there from women.
"My oldest girl and two boys all play flag," he said. "My daughter wants to be a football player, and she just turned 9 years old."
In the footsteps of tone-setters like Longo and behind the support of spokesmen like Vick and her father, she may very well have a shot at her dream. A shot at bringing the not-so-distant possibility of women in football to life. Even if that possibility begins on flag fields.
"We're not limited to people who could physically handle the toll that football takes," Lewis said. "We don't know what the perfect guy or player looks like in this game, but we know that it's different."
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