“Little things,” like a blown out knee and torn Achilles tendon, couldn’t keep a good Adrienne Wilson down. At age 39, the former University High athletic star remains immersed in sport. Football, of all things.
Not lingerie football (“we are people who keep our clothes on,” she quips), not flag football, but fully padded, full-contact, tackle football.
“It’s an addiction,” Wilson says. “Everything about football, I love it.”
She was featured in a Spokesman-Review story several years ago when she was headed to Sweden to play a sport generally considered male domain.
Recent photos on Facebook show her in Seahawks colors and include a hazy video of her making an impressive juggling catch.
Incredibly, football was a sport she didn’t even follow until introduced to it by a friend from college who asked her to try out for her team in Seattle.
Wilson, a two-sport standout in high school, has sprint, long jump and triple jump school records that still stand and compare favorably in state to those two decades later. She ran on the 4x100 relay team that was an unbeaten state champion.
“I remember her really well, who wouldn’t?” said retired U-Hi teacher Steve Llewellyn, who coached girls cross country and was the sprint coach in track. “She played every sport possible. If they had hang gliding she’d do that, too, and that’s no joke. The big question (in track) was, my gosh, what events would she do?” He speculated Adrienne could have cleared 5-8 in the high jump. Sounds like a potential decathlete.
Her high school basketball coach, Bob Finn – now an alumni coordinator at Gonzaga University – had her for three years.
“She was just a phenomenal athlete,” he says. “She was so fast it was to a point where she was too fast on the court. She didn’t start. But when we were in the press or matchup zone she was the person (on the floor) because she was so quick and had great feet.”
After graduating from U-Hi, she spent time at Eastern Washington University where her 19 foot-plus long jump at one time was the school record.
She left after two years and headed to Seattle to find work – currently in maintenance at a cemetery that includes digging graves. “It’s kind of a weird job,” she admits – and to get away from Spokane’s winter weather.
Wilson’s athletic gifts translated smoothly to football. It was natural to become a receiver because of her speed. A friend who had played intramural sports with her at Eastern talked her into trying out. She became hooked.
“Growing up I didn’t watch football. I didn’t know anything about it,” Wilson said. “When I moved here I met friends who were avid about the Seahawks and I became a fan.”
“I learned I could play football and it took off from there,” she said.
Her current team, the Seattle Majestics, plays in Seattle’s Women’s Football Alliance (WFA.)
At first, contact was foreign. She lined up against a teammate in practice who was one of the hardest hitters on the team and figured if she could handle that she could handle anything.
“She laid me out,” Wilson recalls. “It was shocking. I actually was lying on the ground and laughing. It didn’t hurt or anything. A lot of people shy away from (contact), but I kind of like it.”
The first game she played, “my nerves were out of control. As soon as that first hit or contact you make… all the nerves go away.”
Her speed and height were advantages; playing receiver was a “no brainer.” But she’s also played cornerback on defense, running back and wildcat quarterback.
While male NFL players rake in millions in salary, the women pay $900 to play their eight-game season, sell tickets to games, fund raise and secure sponsors to travel. Surprisingly, women’s tackle football is international. She’s played games around the country and against teams in places such as Mexico and Sweden.
At an age that most professional male football players have long retired Wilson says that as long as her body holds up she’ll continue playing.
“When I first started I was the fastest player in the league,” Wilson says. “I don’t do that anymore. There’s a lot of young talent out there.”
It’s comforting for her to know, though, there’s a 50-year old on her team. Adrienne isn’t as quick as she was, but wily and knows how to get open. She tells people she’s 28 and says they believe her.
“I’m slowing down a bit,” she admits. “I blew out a knee one year and ruptured my Achilles tendon. I don’t recommend that to anybody. Everyone is saying I’m too old. No, I’m never too old. It’s just a mindset. I don’t know what I’d be doing without football.”
But if that day comes and Adrienne Wilson is forced to retire, she has an option – golf.
“The first couple of times were frustrating,” she says. “But hit one good shot and it turns your day into a good day.”