Whenever Polly McDonald and Katie Zellner take the field for the LFL’s Green Bay Chill they do so with intensity and a surprising passion that has left many who have never before witnessed an LFL game suddenly tuning in to find out more. As most of my interviews with the ladies of the Green Bay Chill has demonstrated, The Chill have a roster full of women who are not only athletically gifted but also driven to prove critics wrong. Particularly, those critics who doubt a professional women’s football league can find success.
“The biggest misconception is that we are girly-girls, when in reality we play sports like dudes, if not better” said WR Katie Zellner. “We are all former athletes and enjoy football and being involved in the community. Playing in the LFL has allowed us to take our talents to the field and meet a lot of awesome fans along the way! Not to mention develop some great relationships on the team and meet some of my future bridesmaids”
Certainly a battle for all the players of the LFL and something her teammates, including Polly McDonald can attest to:
“I think the biggest misconception is that this is a league of cheerleaders playing football. The question I get the most is, You don’t tackle do you? That questions drives me crazy. I wouldn’t be putting in this much time and effort to run and two hand touch someone. No, this is full tackle, throw everything out there, slamming bodies into turf football. With our uniforms a lot of people think the girls are just Barbies trying to show off their bodies. The uniforms draw fans, that is for sure, but that is not why us girls are playing this game. With that said, I love our uniforms.”
What many may not see when they take in an LFL at first glance is what lies beyond the eye-appealing outfits and the attractiveness of the ladies in the LFL. Beyond the initial layer is a deep routed journey through athletics and a work ethic that rivals any professional athlete. Proof that initial perception isn’t always an indication of a truthful reality.
Both Zellner and McDonald have athletic backgrounds that standup to any other professional athlete and a resume that may get overlooked by the very detractors who question the LFL and it’s players. I suggest each of you, look a bit further. Beyond the initial appeal of the ladies playing in the LFL lies a strong work ethic, passion and a love for competition.
“I have always been a competitor and an athlete having played college basketball at Winona State University. Besides basketball I also played volleyball, softball, soccer, and ran track growing up” said Zellner. “In college I also played intramural football, dodge ball, softball, volleyball, and basketball. Taking the championship every year, no big deal.
But football has always been one of my favorite sports not to mention being from Green Bay my life revolves around the Packers! Playing intramural football in college and the Green Bay city recreation leagues was fun but I was looking for something more competitive. Playing competitive tackle football has always been a dream of mine so I decided to take my talents to the field and prove to the world girls can play football just as well as the boys.
Being from Green Bay, I was born and raised around the Green Bay Packers! I always had an interest in football and I started playing in 4th grade, being only one of the two girls in the boys league. Boy’s were scared of me and I don’t blame them, I wasn’t afraid to give them bloody noses and I wasn’t afraid of anything.
I followed in one of my best friends footsteps (Matt Winney) who was a lock down defender and had a lot of pro workouts that I was able to observe and he also had the opportunity to go to a mini camp with the Minnesota Vikings. He worked with me on certain dynamics of the game and made sure I was mentally prepared to step out on the field and be a play maker.”
A very similar path taken by McDonald who is also her sister in the Chill’s vertical game. McDonald has chipped in with 7.5 tackles out of the defensive backfield playing the cornerback position. Hearing McDonald talk about her love for not only the LFL, but football in general, is something that is evidence that the LFL is here to stay and each player intends on making that happen.
“I think all the women on the team bring a lot of passion and determination to the field” said McDonald. “I think what makes me unique is I’m the crazy, funny one. I like to make people laugh. This is a tough game and I like to find humor in things by making the girls smile. Its easy to get caught up in the middle of the game taking ourselves a little too seriously, or getting down on ourselves.
I’ll say things in the huddle to just get a little smile, probably things I can’t mention here though. In a radio interview earlier this year they asked me what NFL player I would compare myself to. At the time Charles Woodson was playing corner and naturally I wanted to compare myself to someone amazing like him. Heisman winner, Pro Bowl selection, Super Bowl champ, Defensive Player of the Year, I mean who better could I choose!? But lets be realistic, I am nowhere near the talent level he is. The radio show host said I have good fashion style like Charles, so at least I have that going for me. But hey Chuck if you’re reading this I’m always up for some lessons”
While the passion and pedigree has been there for both Zellner and McDonald the journey to a roster in the LFL came with some tough obstacles. With an expansion team being added to the LFL mix (Green Bay) it can be hard to make an impact in a franchise’s very first season. But both ladies have persevered and have grown from the experience. As most of us know, it’s not always only about the trials and tribulations that accompany one’s path to a specific goal or destination, but the accomplishment of reaching that destination and the drive to create a new journey.
Take Zellner for instance. Her hard work is paying dividends not only for her career in the LFL but as a vital asset to the Green Bay Chill. Thus far this season Zellner has provided offensive efficiency at the wide receiver spot, becoming a prime target for quarterback Anne Erler and leading the Chill with 7 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. Zellner has also added 4 tackles and an interception playing defensive back.
“Being a former college athlete and major tom-boy growing up, I have always been extremely competitive. When I heard about this league I hesitated at first because I wish the uniforms covered up a little bit more but when your out on the field you don’t worry about what your wearing, your more focused on who your going to lay out next and as soon as I got over what the uniforms looked like I was like sign me up-for life!
The NFL players I compare myself to is Charles Woodson or Randall Cobb, because of their versatility on the football field. Charles Woodson because of his ability to play both WR and DB in college at Michigan and excel at both positions, and not to mention one of my favorite numbers is 21. He has also played multiple positions on the Packers defense like Nickel, Corner and Safety. His ability to play man and zone coverage on any WR or TE in the league and blitz from anywhere on the field makes him a future hall of famer. Like Woodson, I feel I also have the ability to play multiple positions well. I’m waiting for my call from the Packers, I heard through the grapevine I’m suiting up for playoffs. Lastly, I would like to compare myself to T.O. because he’s just a pimp, and that pretty much sums up who I am, I play both offense (receiver) and defense (defensive back) and am always looking for ways to improve my game and make a difference in this world even if its just making people smile.”
Polly Mcdonald isn’t much different from her teammate.
“I had heard about the LFL before it came to Green Bay” said McDonald. ” I loved the athleticism and the sexiness put together in the league. When I heard there were open tryouts here I was a little hesitant to try out. I really didn’t know what to expect or who would turn out. Anne Erler is one of my good friends and after she tried out she asked me to come to a practice because she really thought this is something I would like. So I came to a practice and its history from there! I’ve played softball my entire life since I was a little girl, through high school at Bay Port, and also college club softball at UW-Madison. I also played volleyball through high school. I still play both sports in bar leagues in the Green Bay area.
I think what got me into playing football, is that I’m a huge football fan. I love the Badgers and bleed green and gold for the Pack. I’ve always loved throwing the football around with the neighborhood kids or out at Longtail beach on the bay of Green Bay during the summer. I remember when I was going to school in Madison, freshman year we would get pickup games going several nights a week. No one else ever wanted to play tackle until it snowed, but I didn’t know any other way
My goal for my career in the LFL is to help my team in any way I can. That means in whatever position I can. Whether its offense, defense or special teams. I think everyone’s goal should be to make it to the playoffs and the LFL championship game. Go big or go home! It would be awesome to one day play on the All-Fantasy Team as well.”
But the hard work doesn’t stop with just practices and the effort on gameday, both players have benefited from their Head Coach Gilbert Brown, who knows what it takes to bring a championship to the city of Green Bay. He was apart of the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl team in the 90’s. Both McDonald and Zeller have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn.
“It is such a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for a former super bowl champion. His knowledge of football brings so much to the team, but not just football itself as far as plays and techniques, but also everything else that comes with football such as respect, comradery, how you should conduct yourself outside of football, how you treat fans, the media, etc etc” said Mcdonald. “He is just such a down to earth guy. We’ve got to learn from not only him, but he has brought in others who have influenced him including his brother, his former coaches, players he has coached, and also other former Green Bay Packers.”
Zellner added: “He has been on the big stage before so his advice and knowledge has been invaluable. He does a good job balancing when to discipline and when to motivate or teach the players. It has been a great experience to play for him and the rest of the coaching staff.”
With players such as Zellner and McDonald on the Chill’s roster it’s clear they have a bright future as well as a solid foundation to build upon. The Chill aim to notch their second win of the season this Saturday against the Las Vegas Sin and close out their season with a win to build upon next season.
From this journalist’s perspective, I for one have a lot of confidence in this team as I am sure Coach Brown does. Each lady I have had the pleasure of interviewing has further cemented my belief that the Green Bay Chill, when they bring it all together collectively, will be a force to reckon with for years to come. It’s players like those who make up the Chill roster that exemplify the will, dedication and passion that every athlete of every sport tries to display.
I just hope we are all on board for the ride when the Chill are someday hoisting an LFL Championship in the city of Green Bay. Then maybe the critics can worry less about their attire and more about the talent and ability these ladies are blessed with.
For more on the Green Bay Chill visit their official website here