Monique Gaxiola has been knocked down quite a bit in her life.
As the only sister to four brothers, she was knocked down every time she went out to play in the yard. As a young girl growing up playing soccer, she was knocked down every game she played in. As the only girl on her high school’s junior varsity team – their place kicker – she was knocked down by boys in pads and helmets. Then, as a member of the Mexico U-19 and U-20 national soccer teams, she was knocked down by some of the best amateur players in every country she played against.
Every time she got knocked down, she got back up.
She was recruited by the University of Southern California to play soccer. She was knocked down hard on her way to the 2007 NCAA National Championship, where the Trojans won the title. That time, it put her out for the season with an injury to her medial collateral ligament in her knee. Soccer is a rough sport, and all those years of kicking – and other players kicking at her legs – had taken its toll.
It was a little harder to get back up this time. She took a year to rest and recover. When she thought she was ready, she stepped back on the soccer field, playing for a semi-pro team as a way to prepare for her final year of college eligibility and try for another championship.
Then she got knocked down again. Her knee. More rest. More recovery. Her senior year came and went. No soccer. No shot at a second national championship.
She graduated. She took some time to think. Soccer wasn’t an option.
But there was another sport. One that she had played with her brothers in the front yard. One that she had played in high school. One that girls normally weren’t allowed to play competitively.
The LFL was expanding to a full league; an inaugural season with teams that needed players. She went to try-outs and made the roster for the Los Angeles Temptation. She quickly became one of their top backs. The coaches liked her speed, balance, and aggressive play. She was back on the field, playing sports. It wasn’t soccer but it was one she enjoyed just as much, if not more.
And then, while still in training camp, she got knocked down again. Hard. It was her knee.
The MRI revealed an old ACL tear; apparently incurred during her college days but never properly diagnosed and treated. She had a choice: surgery and miss the season, or wear the brace.
She chose the brace.
She went on to have one of the best seasons a player could have; becoming the backbone of the Temptation defense and developing a reputation as one of the most feared linebackers in the LFL. Her team qualified for the playoffs with one of the best defenses in the league, and went on to play in the championship – the Lingerie Bowl – where she proved that pretty girls can play football. It was her second national championship trophy. She now had one in soccer and one in football.
On top of that, as recognition for her talent as a soccer player and a football player, she was tagged to play in the all-star game as the Western Conference’s All-Fantasy kicker and starting linebacker.
The game started with the fanfare one would expect at a professional all-star game as the Western team lined up to kick-off to the best of the Eastern Conference. Monique lined up her squad and then gave a beautiful kick high and deep to Tyrah Lusby, the offensive backbone of the Philadelphia Passion.
Lusby rushed forward, then cut to the sideline, following the blockers in front of her, looking for gaps and darting through the open field, showing the speed, balance, and agility that made her such an offensive threat. Finally, as Lusby cleared the mob of players, there was only Monique standing between her and the end zone.
Lusby cut to her left and Monique went down. It was her knee. Again.
Knee 4, Monique 3.
She got back up to even the score.
“I thought I tweaked my knee; no big deal. I went back into the locker room and demanded that the trainers tape my knee because I wanted to go back out. They taped me up and I went back out there. A few plays later I went to sack the quarterback (Miami’s Anonka Dixon) by the shoulder pads and my knee gave out again. I knew that was it! I couldn’t get back up to save my life. Came back to the states and found out I had a torn meniscus and ACL.”
“One doctor said I would be out for the entire season and then some; but that’s not what I wanted to hear. Went to another doctor where he fixed my meniscus and he said I could rehab my ACL without having surgery on it. He knew I would be able to rehab my ACL because I did it last season with my other knee.”
She’d miss the start of the LFL’s second season and have to wait in the wings while her team played without her; playing… and winning. She finally stepped onto the field in time for the second game of the LA season, helping her team to a victory over the Dallas Desire and bringing the Temptation that much closer to the playoffs.
“I enjoyed the challenge of rehabbing my knee because a lot of people didn’t believe I had two torn ACLs and I was doing so well! Rehab taught me to never take anything for granted; especially the days doing up/downs during practice because one day I was walking normal and the next I could barely get out of bed!”
“I wanted to come back because I love this game! A lot of people doubted my return after my last knee injury but that only motivated me to prove them wrong. I love this game too much and its going to take a whole lot more than knee injuries to keep me away. I also wanted to defend our title from last season because, again, so many people doubted us! Each year is just going to get bigger and better and I want to be a part of that. You only live once so you have to live every day like its your last.”
“We lost a few key players from last season but picked up so much more talent this year to make up for that. We have a great team chemistry this year – on and off the field – that’s unbreakable. Every practice I leave feeling banged up and bruised like I played in a game, which I didn’t really feel last year. We fight for our positions every practice to the point where the coaches don’t know who will be the 14 that are going to suit up for the next game. We have a title to defend and our rookies understand that. That’s why we never take a play off during practice and games.”
Any words for the Temptation Nation?
“Playing at the LA Coliseum is kind of a big deal and I want every seat filled. Playing in front of our fans is amazing because without them this league would not exist. We’ve got a title to defend! That’s what we do in LA; we don’t just win games, we win titles.”