Heroes

These 7 women prove tackle football isn’t just for men.

They're students, nurses, project managers, foster care workers, lab managers, moms ... and professional badasses.

These 7 women prove tackle football isn’t just for men.

Miranda Munson is a deputy sheriff in Oklahoma. She’s also an international league football player.

The 36-year-old specializes in criminal investigations, focusing mainly on crimes that take place in Tulsa’s biggest jail, the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, which she describes as "a city within itself."

To unwind from her day job, she needs hobbies: the St. Louis Cardinals, her friends and family, her Belgian Malinois, and Baxy — an old partner from when she was on the K-9 unit.


And then she has football.

Munson and Erica Alford, an offensive guard. Photo via Miranda Munson, used with permission.

Munson is a football player for the Tulsa Threat — Oklahoma's only all-women tackle football team.

Yes, it’s tackle football. No, these women do not play in their lingerie.

Munson is among the more than two dozen women ages 18 to 40 on the Tulsa Threat, which has recently joined the Independent Women’s Football League.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

These women are students, registered nurses, project managers, foster care workers, lab managers, occupational therapist assistants, machinists, soldiers, moms, and accounting specialists.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

On the side, they — like hundreds of women across the nation — play their hearts out at the highest level of football women can play, all while virtually no one watches. This means the women often need to buy their own pads and cleats, pay their own way for travel games, and pitch in to help rent high school football fields for weekend games.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

Despite the challenges, women like Munson continue to play for a number of reasons — including the example they set for the next generation.

"It’s cool to show some of the young girls that there’s something for them to play when they’re older," Munson said. "And when you put those pads on, you feel like you have a responsibility to those young girls watching."

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

Although they still have small followings, the fan base seems committed. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of young girls participating in high school tackle football saw about a 17% increase from 2007 to 2011, with 1,561 girls participating. While that growth rate seems to have stalled (the NFSHSA shows about the same number of female football players last year), it’s hard not to see women’s tackle football getting bigger and more popular in the coming years based on growth to date.

But at this point, there’s no real prospect to make a career out of it. So what’s the motivation?

This is why these seven women play football. (Hint: It’s not the money.)

1. Miranda Munson, Tulsa Threat (IWFL)

Photo via Miranda Munson, used with permission.

"I started because I had friends who played, and I grew up playing soccer. I missed playing on a team, and I wanted to learn something new and challenging. They practice for hours at a time, multiple days a week. They get sore, pull muscles, tear tendons, bleed, and break bones for this game and often still have to work and live their lives.

I have the utmost respect for not only my teammates, but any woman who puts pads and a helmet on and walks out on that field to do their part to further this sport. We also get to change the way little boys and girls see women's athletics. It's a wonderful feeling and worth the risk."

2. Callie Brownson, D.C. Divas (Women's Football Alliance)

Photo via Callie Brownson, used with permission.

"I will admit, in my first couple years, I played for myself and to fulfill my needs. But as I grew up and grew in the sport, I realized the doors that we could open for women and little girls. If I have a daughter someday, I don't want her to feel like in order to be a woman in sports, education, or in her career she has to exploit herself physically, but rather be judged by the person or athlete she truly is. Playing women's football has created that trail to blaze, where we have the opportunity to tweak society's views of a 'powerful female.' This is not a feminist movement or a 'men think they're better than women' movement — but rather an opportunity to seek equality."

Brownson, 26, is from Mount Vernon, Virginia, and has played six seasons with the D.C. Divas and one season with Team USA in Finland (which won a gold medal).

3. Mia Brickhouse, Boston Renegades (WFA)

Photo by Nadine Jehnich, used with permission.

"I’ve played tackle football for 13 years. I started playing when I was in law school at Villanova, as an outlet. I continue to play to set an example for those small girls like Sam Gordon, who may one day get the chance to play in high school and college. These days I’m co-owning because I know how tough it is to provide opportunities for women. I'm lending my professional experience to help out my passion."

Brickhouse, 36, is an attorney and former athletic administrator for the Big East Conference. She is currently the COO of Boston Women’s Football, LLC, and co-owner of the Boston Renegades.

4. Stephanie Jackson, Acadiana Zydeco (WFA)

Photo via Stephanie Jackson, used with permission.

"I play football because this is what I’ve been sent to Earth to do. It is my gift, and I love doing it. I love the contact, the camaraderie, the lessons to be taught. I love everything about the game of football. How a new ball feels, the smell of autumn, which means it’s football season, the sheer fact that football is the most complete team sport on the planet. I love it all.

These days, I play for the Acadiana Zydeco in Louisiana, and my goal is to bring women’s football to the world. One day, we will pack stadiums and people will pay good money to see us play. That day will come. It is inevitable, and I will be right in the midst of it all."

Jackson, 27, is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is working on a masters in business administration at Louisiana State University. She currently works as a personal trainer.

5. Brittany Bushman, Dallas Elite (WFA)

Photo via Brittany Bushman, used with permission.

"Football is by far my favorite sport, but throughout my career, I have experienced pushback and adversity. For obvious reasons: I am female.

Constantly hearing those typical sayings: 'Girls don’t play football; it’s a man’s sport,' 'Girls are not physically capable of playing football,' 'Girls should be on the sideline in a skirt.' The criticisms go on and on.

But my women’s tackle football experience has been one of the most influential and remarkable endeavors of my life. Today, I’m surrounded by 50 empowered women, willing to sacrifice time, money, family, and jobs for the sport they love. We are making history, changing minds, and giving hope to a younger generation!"



Bushman currently plays for the Dallas Elite. She is a four-time All-American and was a member of Team USA in 2013. She is also an eighth-grade science teacher and an assistant coach for the varsity basketball team.

6. Ursula Johns, Arkansas Wildcats (WFA)

Photo via Ursula Johns (right), used with permission.

"It makes me feel great. Those five words have so much meaning behind them. Playing a game of football, no matter if I win or lose, makes me feel like I just hit a grand slam with the bases loaded. It makes me feel like there's three seconds on the clock and they just passed me the basketball. It makes me feel like I won the 100-meter dash by 0.001 seconds — the feeling is indescribable. I love to play because it gives me the feeling of being a part of something that's so much bigger than myself.

However, it does make me sad and a little bit discouraged that countless others and myself go out 10 Saturdays out of the year and play like there's no tomorrow only to hope and pray that someone watches."

Johns, 27, from Shelby, Mississippi, is a biological science aid for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She lives two and a half hours away from where the Wildcats play but has said would never miss a game.

7. Jessica Collins, Tennessee Legacy (U.S. Women's Football League)

Photo via Jessica Collins, used with permission.

"You would never know how much fun it is getting hit or hitting somebody else until you get out there and play. There’s just something about putting on the pads, uniforms, and cleats that gets you excited. Another reason why I play is to show the boys that I can beat them playing their game. It gives me great satisfaction to beat them and gloat a little bit afterwards.

One of the biggest obstacles in women’s football is getting fans and getting our game out in public. Most people don't know that there are women teams around the country, even overseas.

I also play because I want to inspire younger girls that you can do anything you put your mind to. Don't let gender roles get in your way. Just be yourself and do what you feel in your heart. Don't let anybody tell you can't."



Collins, 26, is a detention officer and also a referee. This has been her third season with the Legacy. She also travels two and half hours from Mississippi to play in home games and go to practice.

Will the leagues catch on? It’s hard to say. But the effort matters.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

In our modern world of Abby Wambachs and Ronda Rouseys, surely women’s professional tackle football playing on ESPN isn’t so difficult to imagine?

Let’s hope these women can inspire a movement, or at least open people’s minds to the idea.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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