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A Linebacker Who’s Not Tedy Bruschi’s Sister

Four BU alums are in the Militia, full contact women’s football

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Photos by Rich Griffin

They tackle with force, make fingertip catches, and play hard. One player swears her black sports bra is her good luck charm.

“Men probably don’t have special undergarments, but we do,” says Boston Militia co-captain and linebacker Patty Heffernan (CAS’00, SED’00,’07), who has played tackle football for nine years.

The Militia, a women’s full-contact football team, are the 2009 North Atlantic Division champs with an undefeated regular season in the Independent Women’s Football League. Among the Militia’s 43 team members are four BU alums: Heffernan, Jen Olivieri (CGS’92, SED’94), who was chosen as an IWFL All-Star, Sharyn Wacht (SED’04), and Emily Weinberg (SED’07).

At the Eastern Conference Championship at Somerville’s Dilboy Stadium on July 11, the crowd was estimated at 750, jamming the parking lots. A dad and his two young daughters with Militia-inspired red hair ribbons cheered, joining fans with face paint and football jerseys. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” sounds tame compared to what plays when the Militia score: “Brick House,” by The Commodores, and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

With 40.4 seconds left to play, the Militia held the lead, 21-19 and lined up to kick off to their opponent, the D.C. Divas, with victory at hand. But the Divas returned the kick 90 yards and added insult to injury by completing a two-point conversion for a 27-21 lead, silencing the crowd and ending the Militia’s season. If not for the Divas’ last-second heroics, the Militia would have been flying to Texas this weekend for the IWFL World Championship.

“The first quarter went well, our players were feeling pretty good,” says Heffernan. “We knew we could have played better in the first half. It was rough to go from complete happiness in those last few seconds to complete shock.”

Some women on the team are already preparing for next season, with tryouts starting in the fall practices in January. “The way we lost, it motivated some people to go to the gym, go to the trainer right off the bat,” says Heffernan. She will stay busy teaching fulltime at Belmont High School, where she also coaches soccer and track. She’s a long way from Tom Brady and his $30- million salary; every Militia team member has to pay $500 per season to play, which can be recouped with sponsorships. The fee covers the costs of the field, uniforms, and travel expenses. Adults can attend a Militia game for a mere $10, a far cry from the cost of a Sunday at Foxboro.

Ernie Boch, Jr., known around New England for flamboyant commercials hyping his car dealerships, owns the team. In 2007, he merged two local women’s football teams, the Boston Rampage of the IWFL and the Mass Mutiny of the National Women’s Football Association, to form the Militia. The IWFL, which began in 2000, has more than 1600 players on 51 teams across the country. Boch has staffed the Militia with Derrick Beasley as head coach, Robert Perryman as assistant head coach, and Vernon Crawford as defensive line coach — all former Patriots.

Heffernan remembers being in the best shape of her life when she was on the BU crew team as a freshman, although “the conditioning sessions brings back such bad memories I still can’t get on a rowing machine,” she says. She went on to play rugby as a junior and senior, and tried out for the Militia after graduating in 2000.

The Militia consider themselves role models. “There are Girl Scout troops that come and make signs for our games,” says Heffernan, who hopes the Militia will host clinics next year. “It’s cool that little girls are inspired to play football.

“If you’re exposed to it, you’ll carry it with you,” adds Heffernan, and she means the game, not the pigskin. “Football has been a great experience for me. I’ve met great friends, I’ve learned a lot as an athlete and a teammate.”

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

5 Comments

5 Comments on A Linebacker Who’s Not Tedy Bruschi’s Sister

  • Anonymous on 07.24.2009 at 10:17 am

    Who came up with this stupid headline?!

  • Anonymous on 07.24.2009 at 10:36 am

    Great story, Amy. I was actually in attendance for the this game and loved it. Being the avid sports fanatic that I am, I went in a little reluctant. Why do I want to see a bunch of ladies playing a man’s sport? Well, after one DC Diva on the return-team was laid out on the initial kick-off, I was hooked.

    I like to relate seeing a Militia game with seeing a Lowell Spinner’s game – quality talent, cheap prices, and a friendly atmosphere. And to top it all off, the hot dogs were delicious!

    Thanks for putting this together, excellent work! This team needs more (some / any) hype they can!

  • kcornuelle on 07.24.2009 at 10:49 am

    great piece

    these women are pretty amazing — taking on sports one by one that were supposedly ‘just for men.’ thanks for highlighting them, women’s football, and even finding that ever-present BU angle!

  • berghaus on 07.24.2009 at 2:25 pm

    Who would have known?

    I had no idea there was a competitive women’s football league right in my own backyard.

    Thanks for sharing, Amy!

  • Anonymous on 07.25.2009 at 9:16 am

    What an interesting story! You seem to get all the benefits of a good Pat’s game, but without the cost. I think I’ll check them out next season!

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