Murphy among proud Valkyries participating at Women’s World Football Games

Heading into her third season with the Saskatoon Valkyries, running back Kelsey Murphy is among the building blocks for the future of the franchise. Among the recipients of the Athlete Assistance Award from Football Saskatchewan in 2014, Murphy’s dedication and work ethic resulted in the jubilation of a WWCFL championship in her rookie season, a 53-0 final against the Lethbridge Steel. Hoping for another return to the championship spotlight, she approaches opening kickoff with great enthusiasm.

Part of her preparation has included participating at the third annual Women’s World Football Games. Hosted at the New Orleans Saints training facility, they would earn the distinction of becoming the first NFL franchise to host the Games. Joining Murphy at this exciting and groundbreaking event were seven other Canadian players, including four teammates from the Valkyries.

Taking into account Murphy’s roommates during her stay in New Orleans consisted of six players from the WWCFL (including her fellow Valks teammates), the chance to share in a career highlight with other gridiron heroes from Western Canada helped to solidify the league’s legacy and build towards a strong future was enjoyable. As Murphy recounts, one competitor each from the Calgary and Lethbridge clubs were on-hand as well, providing a great chance to establish off-field friendships.

As there is no interconference play in the WWCFL, the Games proved to be the ideal setting to become acquainted while doing so in an environment built on amity and sportsmanship. Of note, Calgary and Lethbridge (one player from each roster attended the Games) participate in the Western Conference, meaning that they never get to play Saskatoon in regular season play, one of the signature teams from the Prairie Conference.

“My friend Ehjae from the Valks set up our housing arrangements through a B and B. We ended up staying with five Valkyries, a Lethbridge Steel player, a Calgary Rage player, a girl from Wisconsin, Finland and Austria! We had an amazing group. It was great to meet players from the other Canadian teams.

We made some really strong connections with the girls and it definitely strengthens my relationship with those Canadian teams. It will be much more exciting to go play in Calgary or Lethbridge when I am looking forward to seeing Lisa and Melissa! Of the Valkyries that went, I am already very close with the four of them, it was great to share this experience with them!”

Murphy (far left) with fellow WWFG participants in front of the world famous Superdome (Image obtained from Facebook)

Murphy (far left) with fellow WWFG participants in front of the world famous Superdome (Image obtained from Facebook)

Part of sharing the experience included the opportunity to be surrounded by world-class talent. Said talent included two prominent Team USA veterans who served among the group of instructors, Cailie Brownson and Donna Wilkinson, also WFA champions with the DC Divas. Of note, there was another exceptional woman with Team USA ties on-hand.

While hardcore female football fans are aware of Dr. Jen Welter’s legacy with the Dallas Diamonds, the IWFL’s Houston Energy, complemented by a pair of IFAF gold medals with Team USA in 2010 and 2013, Welter first rose to prominence during a memorable stint with the Texas Revolution shattering the glass ceiling. In Welter’s storied career, 2015 may have been her coming-out party as a coaching internship during the NFL preseason served as the vessel to raise awareness of this sporting pioneer.

Serving as a linebackers coach with the Arizona Cardinals, it was part of an exceptional moment for women in football, as she became the first female coach in NFL history. Such an achievement was enhanced by the groundreabking efforts of Sarah Thomas, who became the first female official in league history, also in 2015. Having become a role model for women of all ages looking to grace the gridiron, Welter paid it forward by attending the Games and inspiring others by sharing stories about her experiences. Also taking the time to meet the participants, it was a moment that made a proud impression on Murphy,

“It was very inspirational to meet Dr. Jen Welter. I was expecting to feel small next to someone so amazing, someone who has blazed a trail for us, but she made everyone feel like we were the ones inspiring her. She is one of the reasons we have a place in football, she has broken so many barriers for us, I cannot thank her enough.”

During an event that served as a career highlight for all involved, there was not one moment that stood out as a favorite for Murphy. Instead, it was the entire experience, a gathering of individuals, both male and female, dedicated to the growth of the game.

“The whole event was so special. The people there I think were what made it really special; the coaches, the Saints, their facility staff, the new and old friends and especially Sam Rapoport. All for the love of football.

I really felt like this was a huge step for women’s football, this recognition and support from the Saints was such a boost for women’s tackle football. It was very special to be a part of that. What our friend Gabby said to the Saints on our first day there “thank you for making us feel like we are worth it” sums up my feelings as well.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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