Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Player Profile - Alex Allen #77

What kind of woman plays football?  That was the question that started my series of featured player articles in the Outlaws website.  My player interviews introduced me to some fascinating people.  Alex was one of my early interviews and one of my most interesting.  

At 5'2' and 155 pounds, Alexis Allen is small for a lineman but that doesn't bother her.  She says "Maybe I think I'm bigger than I am, like a little dog thinks he's a big dog."  

 Mostly she plays offensive guard where quickness is as important size.  Guards often pull and lead the play, as Alex is doing in the photo below.  It takes some speed to get and stay in front of Shandana Hurd
Alex wasn't very interested in sports growing up in the New Mexico town of Las Vegas, about sixty miles east of Santa Fe.  Her parents  tried to get her interested in sports and even bought her a football uniform.  They were social workers and believed sports kept kids out  of trouble.  Alex says "I found trouble more interesting."    By high school age, she did get involved in softball and was good at it, playing with the seniors when she was still a freshman.  She took up other sports and played well, getting recognition, letters, awards.

Alex' parents bought her a football uniform.  Later when she joined the
Outlaws, her dad said, "Well see kid, it's in your blood."

Then her parents' divorce changed things for her. 

Her father moved to Virginia and invited Alex to join him, offering to sponsor her attendance at St. Anne's Belfield boarding school in Charlottesville, VA. She jumped at the opportunity.  Unfortunately the athletic talents she developed in New Mexico didn't transfer well to the new environment.  "They played sports I'd never heard of like Lacrosse and field hockey. I didn't seem to fit in as well so I didn't join any of them"

To replace sports in her life, she took up playing the guitar.  And she found a new interest in art.  Her talent in the visual realm proved to be her stronger suit. Her father, a sculptor himself, sponsored her art studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Virginia, but Alex left school in her second year.

Without school and the financial support that came with it Alex was on her own.  She applied for work at a night club and earned a few dollars sweeping the floor.  She made a little more money selling her paintings to this and other establishments in the area.  The night club manager mentored her and after a three years she turned 21 and became a bar tender.  When that club went under, she obtained work bar tending and waitressing at a number of different places and saved enough money to go back to school.

The School of Communication Arts in Raleigh, NC accepted her in spite of her less than stellar academic background.  It was a small school at the time, about a hundred students, "but now they're big, taking up an entire city block." All they taught was computer 3-D animation.  In six months Alex earned what she characterizes as a Vocational Ed degree.  She had all she needed to get a much coveted job in the gaming industry.

Things were looking up until...

She found herself in the hospital.  She had had some mysterious symptoms, first around age 17.  "A loud noise in my head, a big pounding noise that encompasses everything."  After a few minutes it would go away.  She didn't realize it was something physical.  As a teenager she wasn't about to tell anyone she was "hearing loud noises in her head."  After a few months this went away but she had some recurrence at age 21, this time with a little numbness to the side of her face.  She didn't do anything about it because she recalled in the past it just went away on it's own.  And it did this time, too.  "Then at age 25 I got the big hit."  The noises came back and this time there was paralysis on the whole side of her body.  She was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with MS - Multiple Sclerosis.  It took a month in the hospital to get her health under control.

When she got out of the hospital Alex decided she better pay more attention to her health.  With this in mind she decided to get into health and fitness.  "If I'm going to do the health thing, I might as well do it all the way."  She started a strict diet regimen and an aggressive gym and exercise program and rediscovered her interest in sports dabbling in such things as boxing, weightlifting and rock climbing. She believed the change in lifestyle that cured her, or at least put this disease into remission." Today the MS symptoms have completely disappeared.

But her life style change hasn't disappeared.  Alex still works out faithfully.  She spent one year working out at Ann Wolfe's boxing gym.  Ann Wolfe is a top ranked female boxer, winner of seven different titles and ranked number two in her class behind Laila Ali (Mohammed Ali's daughter).  Alex praises Ann Wolfe as a trainer, saying "I sure learned a lot about how to work out..."

Alex moved to Austin to work at her career, creating 3D graphics for computer games.    She has a website,  where you can get details on her career in art. 

In Austin, she met one of the Austin Outlaws who told her all about the women's full contact football team.  Being new in town Alex thought it would be an excellent way to keep active and meet people.  She decided to try out.  At first it was rigorous physical exercise - no problem, she was in great shape.  Once they put on the pads it was running and hitting and lots of bruises and aches and pain.  A lot of hard work, three days a week practicing.  "I liked the challenge and exercise so I stuck with it but I wasn't entirely thrilled by the sport."  Until that first game.  It was against Dallas and Alex says "We won" even though Dallas scored more points...? 

Alex leading Shadana for a big gain.  Photo by
Jana Birchum of the Austin Chronicle for the photo 

"What an exhilarating experience!  I felt like a true warrior.  Never in all the sports I've played, in all my working out, in all I've overcome - nothing gave me that adrenaline rush.  No other sport has been so satisfying - maybe because football is so much more violent, risky, active - like going into battle.  I was so pumped up, so happy and everyone around me was happy.  Nothing has made me feel this good."  She was hooked.

Alex has had some problems with her knees.  She missed much of one season and wasn't able to play in the 2006 post season game in Chattanooga.  Eventually the knees and the demands of her career forced her out of football.  But she still shows up at lot of Outlaw game and remains an energetic supporter of the team. 

Alex with some of her art work

 Update about the MS.  Alex has recently learned the MS diagnosis was wrong. New research revealed that the symptoms Alexis experienced were in fact a treatable acute brain disfunction.  This has been treated and she is completely cured.

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