OKOMO, Ind. — At 5’2” tall, and barely 120 pounds, Jenessa Anderson doesn’t look like a football player.
But the woman her teammates have nicknamed “Mighty,” short for Mighty Mouse, defies expectations, as a running back for the Indy Crash, a women’s semi pro football team.
“I tend to surprise people, because I’m a lot stronger than I look,” said Anderson, 25. “Everyone on the team is about three times my size, but I am extremely fast.”
She’s balanced practices twice a week each spring with a demanding class load as a full-time nursing student at Indiana University Kokomo, along with service in the Indiana National Guard and a night-shift job as a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.).
The Women’s Football Alliance (W.F.A.) plays Saturday games starting in April, which added to her hectic schedule. The Crash play at Marian University, near her home in Indianapolis, but travel games take her hours away, as far as Detroit, Chicago, Louisville, or Kalamazoo, Mich.
“There wasn’t much sleep involved in my life,” Anderson said, laughing. “I feel like I do better when my schedule is full. It keeps me productive.”
She hadn’t told any of her IU Kokomo classmates or teachers about playing full-contact football, but word spread after she came to class injured one week, and explained what happened.
Her love of football began in elementary school. One of her male cousins signed up for Pop Warner football, and “I fought and fought and fought with my mother to let me play, too. I’ve always been adventurous. I tend to try everything once.”
Anderson played other sports in high school, including soccer, but always kept the idea of playing football again in the back of her mind. She learned about the Indy Crash from a friend, attended a training session, and was recruited for the team five seasons ago.
Her lifetime love of sports, combined with her military service in ROTC and then the Army National Guard, prepared her for the physical challenges of tackle football.
“I’m extremely fast,” she said. “That gives me a chance to run the ball. You have to be able to run, and have agile foot movement. You really have to be in shape. I’ve been really active my whole life, and I’ve always played sports. Physical fitness makes you overall more happy.”
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May, Anderson plans to finish the football season, before completing her officer training. Her goal is to be a flight nurse in the nursing corps.
“Health care is a hot commodity, and those people tend to get promoted quickly,” she said.
With her competitive spirit, she hopes to continue her football career as well.
“There are W.F.A. teams all over the country, so I can transfer to a team near where I am stationed,” she said. “I want to be the best at everything I do, whether it is nursing, military service, or football.”
As of June 1, the Indy Crash are ranked third of five teams in their division of the Women’s Football Alliance, with a 4-2 record. The national title game will be August 8 in Los Angeles.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.