By: Tone Young (LFL360.com — SEATTLE)
Coming off the heels of a dominant game one performance in which the Seattle Mist were victorious against the Green Bay Chill,42-6, the team is amped up for their home opener Friday night at the Showare Center where they will face off against the Las Vegas Sin.
Football is a game of match ups and this one proves to have several key match ups that should serve to make this one entertaining game. Highly touted rookie qb Angela Rypien vs that Sin secondary, “Killa Kam Warner vs that entire Sin defense, and of course Las Vegas’ Nikki Johnson vs that “Punishers of the Pacific” defense of the Mist powered by perennial Jessica Hopkins & the fab five as well as some individual matchups like Hopkins vs Tamica Estrella. I just had an opportunity to question two of Seattle three returning All-Stars Jessica Hopkins and Kam Warner below:
Tone: Kam you had a chance to show case your skills as an All-Star this year in Hamilton Ont. How much different was it for you to be able to do it again but in a victory and with your team mates during a regular season game where it counts?
Kam: It was different with my team because those girls are my original family and although the west is a team, and I respectthose women, my family are the girls that make ME better week in and week out.
Tone: Jessica, coming off a game one in which your team was victorious against the Green Bay Chill a game in which you came back with MVP honors, did you feel like there were any areas in which you personally might have done a better job at or do you believe you were basically solid all night?
Jessica: There’s always going to be areas I want to get better at. I’m never satisfied with my performance even if I have an awesome game I’m constantly scrutinizing my performance; looking for things that I can improve on the next game. I’m my own worst enemy sometimes because I hold myself to such high expectations. As for the Green Bay game; I would have brought more physicality on the defensive side of the ball. I want to make sure if a girl in my area is being tackled that I’m not standing around watching but I’m helping my sisters out and getting an extra hit on the other team any opportunity I get. As far as on the offensive side of the ball I just want to make sure I’m running my routes precise and catching everything thrown to me.
Tone: Jessica you are a physical phenomenon as is easily seen on any tape or workout/training video that you have. So while your body is always in beast mode and ready to perform to the maximum, what types of things do you do to get mentally right before the onset of a game?
Jessica: The mental preparation aspect of the game is something that is a gradual process for me usually starting about 2-3 weeks out from the game. It usually involves me making sure I’m getting my workouts in, cleaning up my diet, getting my fluids in every day and making sure I’m getting good sleep leading up to the game. As the game gets closer I find myself visualizing a lot, especially when I’m going to sleep at night. I see myself running my routes crisp, running through the plays, making amazing catches, running the ball back for a TD, making great technique tackles, getting interceptions and doing an endzone celebration etc. I don’t only visualize just myself making plays but I visualize certain plays that may not even be set up for me and I visualize my teammates making plays and myself making great blocks for them or doing whatever I need to do to ensure my team is successful.
Tone: This upcoming game you will be squaring off against the Las Vegas Sin and going up against all night who many analyst across the country regard as the most “technical” cover corner in the league which is Tamica Estrella. Does that bother you, make you nervous, perhaps a little bit antsy or do you welcome the chance?
Jessica: First off, I believe the best technical and physical corners in the league are my teammates Cristina Fetzer and Rookie Ericka Smith. I go up against these girls at practice two to three times a week and they are always giving me a run for my money! I’ve watched film on Tamica and played with her in the All Fantasy game. I’m not concerned about what people are saying and all the hype and drama the league tries to create amongst players. I respect all of the ladies on the field, we all work hard and want to succeed and win. I’m going to go out there and play my game the way I know how, no matter if it’s Nnamdi Asomugha guarding me or Tamica Estrella. I welcome any challenge with a smile on my face.
Tone: Kam the offensive line looked pretty well solid and your ground attack was merciless against the Green Bay Chill. They had you graded before the season as a D+ running back. Obviously with an A grade now, you have shown that you excel far beyond whatever criteria they used that might have factored into this pre-seasons report card. Are you in any shape form or fashion worried, nervous or in fear of a personal lack of performance and living up to the expectations that fans may now have of you?
Kam: I was born nervous(she says jokingly). About being expected to perform up to a certain level however, I’ve been competing for over 30 yrs in sports and competition brings out an animal I have yet to understand about myself, an out of body experience….I guess…not to sound corny, but true!!
Tone: Jessica all this talk about your offensive skill set, your dynamic ability to read defenses on the fly which enables you to find holes in opposing defenses and aide your young but talented QB Angela Rypien, hands that seem like they could even catch a cloud, your physical training and altogether on field prowess, do you feel it is easy for one to over look the fact that you are an outstanding defensive player?
Jessica: I think if you were to look at last year’s stats I probably was overlooked as any sort of defensive threat simply because teams didn’t throw against us so I didn’t have as many opportunities to display my skills in the secondary. Our team struggled to stop the run last year so teams never had to put the ball in the air when they could get first down after first down running the ball. So far this season I’ve been able to come up with a fumble recovery and an interception with our run defense having improved dramatically. Our whole strategy is to stop the run, force the pass then let our secondary go to work. This is what is going to allow me to show that I can play both ways and I can put just as many points on the board on defense as I can on offense.
Tone: This is your first home game of the season and with the popularity explosion of the LFL since it has started broadcasting live games on MTV 2 and the launching of international markets, how important do you feel it is for you to get off to an early start and run the ball well and often?
Kam: VERY IMPORTANT to set a tone offensively and defensively. This game is too short to come out flat. I and the MIST must a statement early and set the tone!!
Tone: Jessica speaking about your team defense, the “Punishers of the Pacific”, you along with the help of fellow All-Star Kam Warner lead a very strong hard hitting, youthful, fast, aggressive, and exciting defense. How do you will stack up against the offense of the Sin led by #20 Nikki Johnson?
Jessica: I think our defense is ready for Nikki and the Sin. We’ve been preparing for them for the last 5 weeks. We know they like to utilize Sunshine off the line, they like to run it up the middle and Nikki likes to get outside for the option and is capable of the long pass as well. We have been working on a lot of different blitzing schemes and will be shifting our defense based on the sets we see. You won’t see any other team in the league doing what we’ll be doing on defense Friday night. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Tone: You also have the benefit of playing along side some very raw but skillfully talented, hard nosed rookies. What do they bring to the table and in what ways will that give you an advantage or disadvantage going into game two?
Jessica: We have some very talented rookies this season; I think they all have the ability to start on any team in this league. I think OL/DL LaShaunda Fowler brings great speed and aggressiveness to the offensive line. She is explosive and has great hands. If she catches a ball with any open green in front of her; she’ll be gone. She is really excelling on defense as well and will provide a lot of pressure up front to force the pass. Riki Creger-Zier is my partner in crime in the secondary. She has great hands and will get them on any passes thrown in her area. She is fast, athletic and has great field awareness and ability to read the quarterback. She may be petite but she’s very physical and will be making some big hits and possibly some tackles for loss this Friday night. Ericka Smith is the other stand out rookie that comes to mind. She’s playing WR/RB and CB for us this year. She is very physical and hard hitting, she’s great at running the ball and also has great hands, she’s a threat anywhere on the field. I think we’re only at an advantage having any of these girls on the field at any given time and I’m excited to see them do their thing this week.
Photo courtesy of Joe Petro, LFL National Director of Photography, B.J. Fleming and Mike McGinnis, Official Photographer of the Green Bay Chill.