The women who showed up on Saturday for the tryout at Meridian High School in Falls Church to play football for the D.C. Divas in the Women’s Football Alliance got NFL-caliber lessons in the game from someone who knows.
“Stick that arm out — boom, you want to aim for the elbow,” former Terrapins star running back and NFL veteran LaMont Jordan said, showing wide receiver Lexie Floor how to get off the line of scrimmage in a tackle football game.
Some of these women may have never heard of LaMont Jordan. Others may have grown up watching him rush for more than 1,000 yards for the Oakland Raiders and catch 70 passes in 2005, the best season of his nine-year NFL career.
But they were all fixated on every word Jordan said, recognizing the value of lessons from someone who played the game at the highest level — maybe even a little star struck.
“I don’t think they were awed,” Jordan said. “I think there is just a heavy appreciation for the time I put in.”
The Divas were founded in 2000 as part of the new National Women’s Football Association and played their first game in 2001. Two years later, they would win the first of 13 division crowns in various women’s leagues and would go on to win three national titles. They have a franchise won-loss record of 140-50.
Though the league is professional, the women are not paid. The costs of travel, uniforms and equipment for the players is offset by sponsorships and ticket sales, according to team president Rich Daniel.
The Divas have been part of three different women’s football leagues, the latest being the Women’s Football Alliance, which signed a five-year deal earlier this year with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to host their championship weekend in Canton.
The year the Divas began playing was the same year that Jordan, 43, who was born in Forestville, Maryland, was drafted into the NFL, a second-round pick by the New York Jets after an outstanding career at Maryland. While the Divas were starting their run of excellence, Jordan was building a nine-year NFL career with the Jets, Raiders, New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.
What the Divas were doing always intrigued Jordan. “I became a fan of the Divas back when I was playing for the Raiders,” he said. “I went to a few games and loved what I saw. My first reaction was, ‘Wow, they’re out there hitting, OK, OK.’”
He has been a longtime supporter of women’s sports. At Maryland, he was a vocal supporter of the women’s basketball team and even reportedly donated $25,000 to the program later in his career. When he was a star running back at Suitland High, Jordan was the women’s basketball team manager.
“I’ve always been fan of women athletes,” he said. “I watched figure skating growing up. I came up in the era of Bonnie Blair and Nancy Kerrigan and Dominique Dawes. I’ve always appreciated women’s sports and their athleticism.”
He connected with the Divas through conversations with Daniel, a longtime television producer who covered Jordan during his Maryland days. In July, Daniel got a call from Jordan, who offered to help train some players. “That conversation grew into a hybrid role of coaching and training and front office work,” he said.
Daniel said having a veteran NFL presence available for these women during several tryout sessions and workouts has been invaluable. “He’s been a great motivator and teacher of technique and they have embraced his passion for the game wholeheartedly,” Daniel said. “When our players train hard and study their craft it speaks to him and his career under Bill Belichick and many others.
“Lamont arrived with an in-season mentality of getting to work,” Daniel said. “You don’t play nine years in the NFL at running back without a certain mentality and tremendous heart. The players are seeing that from him and he’s finding and seeing that in them too.”
Jordan said the women soak up everything he teaches. “They are eager to learn,” he said. “That is what I see, the ladies are so excited to learn about the game of football and what it takes to be good at the game of football. “
His role includes offensive coordinator, and Jordan said they are looking for a quarterback. “Put it out there — any women who are looking to play the quarterback position, we are in need of a quarterback,” Jordan said. “Anyone interested in coming out and learning a professional offense and playing quarterback, we are looking. We have a quarterback, but she is coming off an injury, and I am a believer in carrying two or three quarterbacks on the roster.”
Jordan has played with the likes of quarterbacks like Tom Brady and JaMarcus Russell. He’s seen the good and the bad. Whoever does play quarterback for the Divas will get the benefit of Jordan’s knowledge of both.
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