Spotlight on: Missy Bedwell

By Jasmine Rogers

This profile was written in 2012.

Mellisa “Missy” Bedwell is truly a pioneer in women’s football. In 1999, she began her football career after answering a newspaper ad that advertised tryouts for a women’s football team. Tryouts were held all over the country, and she answered the call in Florida. After she was selected for the team, she quit her job in Florida and moved to Minnesota to begin her football career with the Lake Michigan Minx. Thirteen years, six teams, three knee surgeries, two wrist surgeries, and a torn rotator cuff later, she is about to play in her 100th women’s football game. She’ll reach that milestone on June 9, 2012, when the Divas face the Boston Militia at home.

Earlier this week, we sat down with Bedwell to learn more about her and the origins of women’s football. The Women’s Professional Football League (WPFL) was founded in 1999 with two charter teams, the Lake Michigan Minx and the Minnesota Vixens. These two teams faced each other in exhibition games in a six-city “No Limits” barnstorming tour to expose the public and media to the newly-formed league. It was on this tour as a member of the Minx that Missy met one of her all-time favorite teammates, Trigger McNair. Trigg and Missy would go on to play for several different teams but would eventually reunite on the D.C. Divas.

Bedwell holds the distinction of being the first women’s football player to be traded (from the Minx to the Vixens) and the not-so-honorable distinction of being the first women’s football player to be injured (with a torn ACL on the opening kickoff of the inaugural game). In her career, she’s been featured in ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, and several local television spots. After 13 years of playing football, Bedwell shows no signs of stopping. She said, “I’ve got two to three seasons left, minimum. I’ll retire when my body tells me to.”

Spotlight on: Missy Bedwell

Why did you start playing football?
I’ve always loved football, and after college, there isn’t much out there as far as women’s athletics is concerned. I answered a newspaper ad for women’s football tryouts, and 13 years later, I’m still playing.

What is your biggest accomplishment in sports?
Winning the state championship in softball my senior year of high school, and being picked as the #1 catcher in the state of Virginia in 1993. In that same year, I was scouted by the U.S. Olympic softball team.

What was your biggest adjustment to football?
Learning the rules!

What is your favorite football memory or moment?
My favorite memory was hearing the national anthem for the first time in uniform in 1999. I cried like a baby!

What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
The biggest challenge is dealing with other players. Dealing with new teammates, people who are new to the sport, and everyone’s personalities can be quite a lot. All I can do is try to be a leader and help them adjust and understand.

You mentioned that Trigger McNair is one of your favorite teammates. Why is that?
I admire her love for football…she has an incredible desire to play. She was always a beast. I’ll tell you what, Trigg and I have been playing this game for a long time. The biggest difference between us is that she has scored touchdowns, and she’s still playing the same position today that she started in 13 years ago.

What was the best advice you were ever given?
Don’t over-think the game, just play – that’s why we practice.

Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
Play hard and leave it on the field.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My family and my love for the game.

What does it mean to play in your 100th game?
I am just excited to still be able to play. My body and my heart are still able and willing, and hopefully I’ve got many more years ahead of me. I never knew I would make it to 100 games. For everyone who told me I couldn’t, and for everyone who said I was too old, I just want to say, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Looking back, what advice do you wish someone would have given you about football?
It’s more than just hitting people.

What does it mean to you to be a Diva?
There is a legacy with this Divas team. There is respect across the league for this team, but each player has to gain that respect for themselves. Just putting on the uniform is not enough. After last week’s game against Pittsburgh, I felt the Diva pride I’ve always heard about, and I have to say that I have never been more proud or honored to be called a Diva. I love being a part of this family!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I’m making a tape to try out for Survivor!

About Missy Bedwell

Name: Missy Bedwell
Age: 38
Hometown: Elk Creek, VA
Profession: Construction Equipment Operator
Years playing football: 13
Sports participated in: Baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, and football
Total years in sports: 30