You've seen football players with earrings and necklaces, but how about lipstick, mascara and bras? That's the look in the Women's Professional Football League (WPFL), which debuts in St Paul on Oct. 9. After the opener the league's two teams, the Minnesota Vixens and the Lake Michigan Minx, will play in Chicago, Green Bay, New York and Minneapolis before closing the season with a purported All-Star game at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 22.
Other attempts to market women's football failed, but WPFL president Carter Turner says his league is different "This ain't powder puff," says Turner, who hopes to field six teams next year. "This is real smash-mouth football."
"It's cutting edge," says Vixens quarterback Shannon Davis, an engineer on leave from NASA who'll join 89 others-receptionists, cops, students—for three months of barnstorming. "Who wouldn't want to be pioneering for women's athletics? We're part of history."
Turner's plan is to recruit top athletes and turn them into football players. That task has fallen to WPFL director of operations John (J.T.) Turner—no relation to the league president—who played nine NFL seasons as a defensive back for the Vikings and the Chargers. "The toughest thing is to teach the lingo," says J.T., who spends his weekdays as a school official and defensive backs coach at Park Center (Minn.) High. "I'll talk about trap blocks or pulls, and the players will look at me like, Huh? It's like teaching a young kid the first time he plays, but they're catching on."
One who already knew smash-mouth sports is 31-year-old Minx receiver Wendy Brown. She made SI's FACES IN THE CROWD in 1984 for setting the U.S. high school record in the triple jump and California state marks in the long jump and high jump, and finished 18th in the heptathlon at the '88 Olympics. The 5'11", 180-pound Brown, who looks like she's 98% muscle, has since turned to amateur boxing. Her speed, hands and leaping ability led J.T. to call her "Randy Moss's little sister."
J.T. hasn't found a female LT, but Vixens defensive end Tina Cottle reminds him of Vikings tackle John Randle. "I like to hit the quarterback, the running back—whoever. It just feels good," says Cottle, a high school basketball coach who stands 6'1" and weighs 250. "When they talk trash, I hit 'em harder."
Christine Czaja, a 26-year-old kick boxer turned tight end whose mother fretted about her latest career move, says there's nothing unfeminine about Vixenhood. "We can be down and dirty, getting all that aggression out," says Czaja, "and then put on a dress, go to a club and dance."
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