Vixen give grandma a chance to keep playing tackle football

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 1:29 AM

Cynthia Bryant’s love of football keeps her playing for the Vixen.

Forget everything you think you know about women’s football and grandmothers nicknamed “Nana Pooh.”

“There’s one question people usually ask me when they find out about us,” says Adam Griffith, head coach of the Minnesota Vixen, the longest continuously operated women’s tackle football team in the world. “They’ll say, ‘Are you the Lingerie League?’ We’re definitely not the Lingerie League.”

Meet Cynthia Bryant. Most people call her “Red.” Her 4-year-old granddaughter, Kamarianna, calls her “Nana Pooh.” Her 6-month-old granddaughter, Payton, just smiles and reaches instinctively to caress grandma’s soft, doting face.

But to opposing linemen in the Independent Women’s Football League, grandma is anything but an old softie. She’s a 5-8, 325-pound immovable object or unstoppable force, depending on which side of the line she happens to be playing when the IWFL’s red, white and blue football is snapped.

“I’m blessed,” Bryant said. “I’m able to be agile and hostile at 40. When I was growing up, I thought when my mom was 40, ‘Man, you’re old.’ But it’s a new day and time.”

Bryant says this during a practice at Highland Forest Park in Burnsville. It’s 48 hours before the Vixen’s home opener, but Bryant isn’t in pads.

“Just got two cortisone shots in my knees,” she says. “I had one ’scoped three years ago. Pulled out my shoulder another year. Other than that, nothing major. I’ll be there.”

For 15 seasons, Bryant and 46-year-old teammate Michele Braun always have been there. They were two of 80 players selected among 350 women during a tryout at the Metrodome in the fall of 1998. Those 80 players were split into two teams — the Vixen and the Lake Michigan Minx — and taken on a seven-city barnstorming tour across the country in 1999. The Minx disbanded, while the Vixen have survived and is playing in their third different league since 2000.

“There was a little blurb in the paper,” Braun said. “It said, ‘Women’s tackle football tryouts, Metrodome.’ I got chills. I was already 31 years old and I was scared to death. But playing football was something I always dreamed of.”

The IWFL is called a “professional” league, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. While there are limited monetary incentives that are difficult to earn, most of the players in the 32-team league pay to play. Vixen players paid a $600 team fee to help offset such costs as uniforms.

“If you come out to play,” Griffith said, “you’re not doing it for the prize money.”

Unique sight

It’s game day. The Vixen are set to play the Madison Blaze in a Midwest Division game in front of about 500 fans at Chaska High School.

There are certain things one doesn’t expect to see on game day. A co-owner dressed in full uniform clacking up the stands on metal cleats to the press box so she can sing the national anthem has to be near the top.

It’s not until the closing moments of the fourth quarter when a reporter is told that the woman, now standing within earshot on the sideline, is Monica Castaldi, a math teacher at Chaska High and co-owner of the Vixen the past three years.

“Let’s see Zygi do this,” joked Castaldi, referring to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

The other co-owner is Jodi Walling, who played for the Vixen until a concussion landed her in the hospital for three days in 2009. On this night, Walling, a public information officer for the city of St. Paul, is doubling as photographer for the team website (www.mnvixen.com).

The Vixen were 1-1 heading into this May 18 game. The victory was a forfeit from the fledgling Rockford Riveters, who couldn’t field enough players.

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Grandma is a pro football player

    Tuesday June 11, 2013

    Cynthia "Red" Bryant has played in the women's pro tackle football league for 15 seasons.

  • Hard-hitting Cynthia “Red” Bryant of the Minnesota Vixen, a women’s tackle football team, closed in on Madison (Wis.) Blaze running back Kara Haines during a recent game played at Chaska High School. She’s played for the team since 1998. “I’m blessed,” Bryant said. “I’m able to be agile and hostile at 40.”

  • Bryant

  • Vixen players Aimee Jorgenson, left, and Torino Grady jumped and yelled to get their team pumped up before their game against the Blaze.

  • Vixen coach Adam Griffith talked over some strategy with eight-year veteran Drue Barber before their game against the Madison Blaze.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close