Lafayette, La. (WJTV) – Stephanie Jackson has known what she loves for her entire life.
“I took my church dress off and borrowed some shorts and I challenged some of the neighborhood boys,” Jackson said. “You know how teenagers fight with their parents over boyfriends and I want to go to the mall, I want to go to the movies? Well I was fighting my mom over the gym and joining a football team.”
After years of trying to play whatever football she could, Jackson got away from the sport to pursue basketball. She played at the collegiate level at Tougaloo College but she lost her love for the sport.
That’s when she came back to football, the sport that’s always had what she craved.
“The competitiveness, and I’ve always been a pretty intense person,” Jackson said. “In basketball you can’t tackle people. Football is all in-your-face, me versus you, get me down if you can.”
So Jackson found the Acadiana Zydeco, a women’s tackle football team that’s part of a league called the Women’s Football Alliance. The team is based in Lafayette, La. which means she drives a total of 12 hours per week to be a part of the team while still working 40 hours a week for Under Armour.
That commitment, along with her noticeable talent, helped the Zydeco fill a void: quarterback.
“The first time we saw her throw the ball, we’re like okay, you’re definitely going to be our quarterback,” Zydeco coach Desmond Woods said. “She’s definitely a leader on and off the field. She’s very vocal.”
Jackson’s new teammates took notice of the vocals.
“She stood up,” Zydeco captain Tiffany Gabriel said. “She wanted to be the quarterback. She actually showed us that she was knowledgeable about football.”
“This rookie is getting in your face telling you catch the ball, this rookie is getting in your face telling you we want more,” Jackson said.
Jackson and her teammates share that brash intensity, along with a love for football. It helped carry the team to its first ever division title this season as well as a bowl game appearance in Houston.
But it also helps carry them through adversity.
“It’s like us against the world out there,” Jackson said. “First, you get the lingerie league. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah I’ve seen that. You guys wear bras and underwear.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah we do under our pads.’ ”
“Because you don’t think that women can play football, even get hit, we’re too girly,” Gabriel said. “Come watch us play and we’ll show you.”
The rookie quarterback hopes these women get a chance to show out on a bigger stage in the future.
“When the NFL season is over, and for that American football fan that hates basketball kind of like I do and doesn’t watch baseball until October like most Americans, I want women’s football to fill that void.”
If it ever does, expect to see determined, talented, and outspoken women like Jackson leading the way.