Shelley Lashley has proved that kicking butt is a beautiful thing, at least on the football field.
A 2004 graduate of Northeast High School, Lashley plays for the Philadelphia Passion, a team in the Lingerie Football League.
She plays both on the offensive and defensive lines. Last year, the 5-foot-8, 125-pound athlete helped the Passion compile a 5-1 record and claim the Eastern Conference championship title. They outscored opponents by more than 85 points.
The Passion went on to Lingerie Bowl VIII, the league championship game in Las Vegas, but lost to the Los Angeles Temptation, 26-25.
“I’m very excited to get back out there,” said Lashley. “I expect us to go 6-0 and win everything. I just want us to win. Once we win, I think we can relax a little bit.”
The passionate players of Philadelphia will host the Tampa Breeze in their season-opener on Sept. 9 at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, N.J. The match-up will start a six-game season that spans September through February, culminating with the grand finale — Lingerie Bowl IX — slated for Feb. 5 in Las Vegas.
The Lingerie Football League, which debuted in 2004, is a full-contact, full-tackle league currently composed of 12 teams in two conferences, Eastern and Western. Although the rules and regulations are similar to men’s football, there are a few minor differences.
The playing field is 50 yards in length and 30 yards wide. There are no punts and field goals. There are two 17-minute halves of game action, with a 15-minute halftime. If necessary, a tied game moves to an eight-minute sudden-death overtime.
Oh, and the uniforms — they’re slightly different as well.
“Every year the uniform improves,” said Lashley, now in her third season with the Philadelphia Passion. “It’s basically like wearing a sports bra with short boy shorts. You kind of forget about what you’re wearing in the intensity of the game. And when it’s hot, you’re happy to be wearing what you’re wearing. I forget about the uniform. I just concentrate on the game.”
Lashley is the only player on this year’s squad from Philadelphia. Other Passion players hail from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Delaware and even South Korea. Head coach Chandler Brown — who was named the league’s coach of the year in 2010 — is from Ewing, N.J.
“Everyone has grown over the past few seasons, from the coaches to the players, and even the rookies coming in are stronger and better than the class before,” said Lashley. “We have just grown as a family, too. Everyone is closer.”
Lashley is one the veterans on this year’s roster, having been with the Passion since its inaugural season in 2009. At the time, she had just graduated from Penn State University with a degree in life science.
“I was at Penn State and looking for a job,” Lashley recalled. “I got an e-mail from a modeling agency about the Lingerie Football League and I Googled it. I decided to try out, and somehow I made the team.”
Although Lashley was athletic while growing up, she had never played football before her Passion tryout. A Germantown native, she attended schools in Northeast Philadelphia — Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Rhawnhurst Elementary School and then Northeast High.
“I did gymnastics when I was younger. I was on the cheerleading team in high school,” said Lashley, a three-year varsity cheerleader for the Vikings. “In college I tried ice skating and judo. I dabbled in a lot of things.”
Of course, these days, it’s all football, all the time.
With the season rapidly approaching, the team has regular practices at the Suburban Sports Training Center in Conshohocken. Lashley also works with a personal trainer five days a week.
“I’m one of the smallest girls,” she said. “I worked hard this offseason. I was trying to gain weight. I was lifting weights and eating healthy and trying to get faster along with gaining the weight. I think I got faster and better.”
Away from the rough play on the football field, Lashley is employed as a patient-care observer at Pennsylvania Hospital. She has thought about returning to school for a nursing degree, but in the meantime her hospital job is providing a wealth of clinical experience.
“It’s intense,” said Lashley, who has been at the hospital since March. “It’s cool seeing what it’s really like in that atmosphere. It’s a hard job to do that. I commend everyone who works in the medical field. It’s not easy.”
Lashley also has been pursuing a modeling career. She was Miss Teen Pennsylvania in 2004 and graduated the following year from the Barbizon School of Modeling. She has taken part in several fashion shows and participated in numerous photo shoots. This summer, she traveled to New York City to appear in a music video for Dylan DilinJah (from MTV’s Making the Band).
Yes, life is certainly busy for the 24-year-old beauty. Yet, despite all of her commitments, she’ll tell you that one of the best feelings in the world is competing on the football field.
“I’m kind of addicted,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t go one day without thinking about football. The game is so enticing and so much fun. I just can’t stop playing.
“To be able to play here, in Philadelphia — the city where I was born — it’s really exciting,” she continued. “I love the competition and the friendships that I have with my teammates. The coaches are amazing, and just the game itself. I love it. I’ll be playing here for a long time.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org