Lisa Horton has always had the game of Football in her blood.
From a young age, Horton was busy playing the game she loved, and being a girl was not going to get in the way. Horton fondly related her early love affair with the sport.
“My family was always involved with the game, my brother, cousins, they all played, so it was a natural thing for me to follow their lead,” Horton said. “I remember playing Flag and Pee-Wee football when I was very young. I was the Punky Brewster of the neighborhood. I loved playing sports early on, and football was right there at the top.”
Its been a long road from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio to now being the star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Passion, a team in the Independent Women’s Football League. As a three-sport athlete in high school, Horton always thrived and excelled. In fact, Horton would eventually earn an athletic scholarship to play softball at Cleveland State University while earning a degree in exercise science.
Horton has been a part of the Pittsburgh Passion since the team’s inception in 2002. When she first heard the team was being formed and that there would be open tryouts, there was no question that she was going to be a part of it.
“I was actually in my second year of Graduate School at Slippery Rock when I heard about the tryouts and there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity,” Horton remembered. “I was helping out as a grad assistant for the SRU Softball team, but I missed competition, so I tried out, made it, and started playing right away.
“Its crazy now to think twelve years later, I am still doing this, playing football with women who are like family…I’ve played with so many awesome, talented people, and had a lot of support along the way. When I worked for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, they always did everything possible to support me and allow me to follow my dream and now at the YMCA I work for in Maryland, its been the same thing, I could not be more grateful.”
Yes, you read that right. Horton actually works and lives near Baltimore, Maryland, and travels back to Pittsburgh for practices and games. Though it means a lot of time on the road, Horton does not mind.
“My schedule is pretty hectic obviously, but I do my best to make it work.” she said. “Everyone on the team including all the coaches have jobs and other responsibilities, so you just find a way.”
Horton is also quick to praise Passion owner Teresa Conn.
“It all starts with Teresa, without her commitment to the team and her tireless efforts, there is no Pittsburgh Passion,” Horton noted. “She’s been the central figure in all of it, and she deserves a ton of credit for all she has done to make the dream of playing football a reality for a lot of women over the years.”
Few players have played at the consistently high level Horton has. Though always ready to give others credit, Horton has been regarded as one of the top players in the league and helped lead the Passion to a National Championship in 2007. She also reached another personal milestone in a recent 51-0 victory against the Carolina Phoenix, becoming the first female professional quarterback to throw for over 10,000 yards.
In typical fashion, Horton is quick to deflect the praise towards her teammates.
“Its a fantastic accomplishment for sure, but there is no way I get there without my team,” the quarterback said. “I have had some great receivers to work with and the bottom line is its a team accomplishment. I had a lot of help getting to that milestone. More than anything now I want to help this team get to its ultimate goal, winning a championship.”
This is a challenge Horton feels good about. The Passion are competing in the IWFL, a new league with a lot of new teams and players, and though the adjustment took some time, you would not tell based on the Passion’s impressive 6-0 start. Horton believes that it has been that depth, combined with some young players who continue to grow, that has made this team so strong.
“I love this team because we have a great mix of youth and experienced veterans,” she said. ” We are so deep, and that’s been huge for us so far this season. We have depth at all positions and its helped us wear opponents down in games.
“This team is really goal oriented and focused on the details. It’s been fun seeing our younger players embrace the game, and we older players are trying to be positive roles models who take film study seriously, along with working hard every practice. Our focus is definitely on winning, and we are heading the right direction.”
Though the Passion look to be in control of their division, the league has teams all over the country, and Horton knows any number of them could make the ultimate goal of winning a IWFL title very difficult.
“There are good teams as far west as Seattle and California, and Houston has a team that is very strong,” she said. ” We know its going to be a challenge, but the goal is to get to the IWFL Championship on July 26th, and win a title.”
As for a future after football? Horton seems content with taking it day by day for now.
“I don’t know how much longer I will play, but whenever the time comes to retire, I definitely want to coach. I just love the game and want to keep involved, i’m always trying to learn new things about the game, and would love to coach on the offensive side of the ball,” Horton said. “Honestly, though, my focus more than anything right now is enjoying playing the game and the camaraderie with all the coaches and players. I know it can’t last forever, so I am going to embrace the game and enjoy every minute of it.”