Now You Know: Savannah Sabers quarterback Erica Olson
"Always you could count on, before basketball season started at West, Erica would have a black eye usually with her school picture there's Erica again with her black eye," said Melanie Olson, Erica Olson's mom. "This kind of became a tradition and the other girls kind of envied her, 'I want a black eye, that's so cool!'"
Erica Olson is the quarterback for the Savannah Sabers, a semi-pro women's football team.
"So many times women are told what they can and can't do and being told women don't play football growing up, and now I am playing football is the best part," said Erica Olson. "Women can look at us and say, 'That's something new, that's something that can grow into something very big for women.'"
The Sabers are one of 62 teams in the Women's Football Alliance, which is a full contact American football league in the United States and Mexico.
"It's pretty much the same game, with the same rules, the only thing that's different is maybe the size of the players or the speed of the game, but we play the game the same as the men do," Olson said.
Erica's Mom, though supportive now, was a bit uneasy about Erica's decision to play full contact football.
"Erica's strong and athletic but she's not particularly a big girl, so when we actually went down to see her in the scrimmage before her season started we saw the size of some of these girls and we had a little trepidation, particularly me," Mrs. Olson laughed. "One girl had her leg broken like two plays into it, again a little trepidation there."
Erica Olson was born and raised in Traverse City. She attended Traverse City West High School and headed south after graduation. She is now getting her Master's degree at Georgia Southern University.
Erica first played flag football in elementary school and again when she was in college. Her love for the sport drove her to search for a women's league to play in. That is when she found out about the Savannah Sabers.
"We don't have a lot of opportunities for women to play football, and just being on that cutting edge of something new that's starting has been the best part," Olson said.
The Women's Football Alliance started in 2009, but the Savannah Sabers are only in their third season as a team. This will be Erica's second season with the Sabers.
I always loved football, but I never thought I would be playing it , especially contact football," Olson said. "It's just the joy of being able to do something that I love to do, and doing something different that most women don't have the opportunity to do."
Olson said the players are not compensated for their time and travel but that doesn't hold her back.
"At this point we do have to buy most of our equipment and the travel to various areas is not covered," Olson said. "You have to cover yourself for the gas and that sort of thing, but we're hoping to in the future be able to pay the players for participating in the game."
Olson says she hopes to be a role model for young girls who have dreams to play football or other male-dominant sports.
"If you have a daughter or a friend that's a female that is interested in playing football, don't push them away from it just because it is football, that it's considered a male sport, it is something that females can do and be very good at."