Don’t tell Tyesha Lowery-Jones that football is just a man’s sport.
It won’t take her long to prove you wrong.
With each electrifying run, perfectly spun spiral and highlight-reel touchdown pass, Lowery-Jones is changing the game and paving the way for women everywhere to display their own elite talents on the gridiron.
“Being a female football player is pretty cool,” said Lowery-Jones, quarterback for the Mile High Blaze, a semi-professional team that’s a member of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA). “We’re up to the challenge.”
Lowery-Jones, who is also a network security analyst at Empower, has been strapping on a helmet and terrorizing opposing defenses with both her arm and legs since the Blaze’s inaugural season in 2013.
She compares her smooth style to that of Lamar Jackson, the shifty QB for the Baltimore Ravens. She’s quick on her feet. She can escape the pocket. She trusts her instincts. “If no one is open, I’ll get the yards and get out of bounds,” Lowery-Jones said. “Having great speed helps; I definitely have some moves.”
The Blaze, which host their home contests at a high school stadium in the Denver area, are one of more than 60 clubs across the country that currently participate in the full-contact WFA. In fact, Lowery-Jones helped launch the Mile High franchise from the very beginning, collaborating with a group of close friends to invent a mascot, design a logo, build a roster and start putting together a strategy to win.
Recently, Lowery-Jones and the Blaze were highlighted on the local CBS 4 affiliate in Denver to help celebrate and promote their progress. In addition, in 2018, she and some of her teammates were featured with the Broncos’ Von Miller in a national Adidas commercial focused on creating change and breaking barriers.
“It’s been an awesome journey so far,” Lowery-Jones said. “We’re continuing to grow and get even bigger.”
The WFA touts itself as “the largest, longest-running and most competitive women’s tackle football league in the world.”
After canceling the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league plans to kick off the 2021 schedule in May. Squads typically play a total of eight games followed by a playoff round and a national championship. Coaches and trainers serve on a volunteer basis, with each team suiting up around 65 players.
“We have all types of women,” Lowery-Jones said. “Moms, grandmas, nurses, lawyers — you name it. We haven’t been playing as long as men have, but we’re eager to learn the game. We want to show we belong.”
In most cases, players are responsible for covering the annual costs for equipment, uniforms and travel. For Lowery-Jones, though, the opportunity to keep living her dream on a prominent stage is worth every penny.
“I have a strong passion to go out there and perform at a high level,” said Lowery-Jones, who also coaches youth football and plays for multiple U.S. all-star teams that face off against international foes. “When I’m on the field, I want to be the best. I know it’s dangerous with all the hits, but I love the spotlight.”
She’s always loved football, too.
“I was the only girl on my junior high team,” said Lowery-Jones, who is from Texas. “I just wanted to compete. I didn’t care that it was against the boys. That never bothered me. In my mind, I thought I was better.”
As she got older, Lowery-Jones decided to hone her athletic skills at basketball because “the boys eventually got bigger and I didn't.” She dominated on the court, too. And, after being recruited by several premier Division I programs out of high school, she accepted a scholarship offer to the University of Denver.
In six years with the Pioneers, Lowery-Jones became one of the school’s all-time leaders in both assists and steals. (She also suffered two gruesome ACL injuries that required surgery to repair — and a heavy dose of patience and perseverance to overcome. “I still have some aches and pains,” she said.)
Following her decorated college career, Lowery-Jones landed a tryout with the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. But she ultimately came up short of reaching her goal after putting in so much hard work on the hardwood.
“That was my chance,” said Lowery-Jones, who joined Empower in 2014. “I felt I could make it, but it didn’t happen.
“So I gave up on basketball.”
But Lowery-Jones didn’t give up on football. How could she? In the back of her head, she knew she wasn’t done yet. After all, she had never stopped being a fan — and, more importantly, a student — of the game.
Now, in many ways, she’s a different kind of “pioneer.”
“When it comes to football, let’s be honest, women haven’t had many opportunities,” Lowery-Jones said. “I really just want to be a part of this movement and inspire women to play football. I think I’m doing that.”