The Teacher: Heather Furr – Chicago Bliss
None of us lives in a vacuum. Every decision we make, every action we take, influences the decisions and actions of those around us.
It’s the same way on the football field. The defense reacts to the offense’s formation. The offensive line’s blocking scheme is influenced by the defensive alignment. The wide receiver’s pass route is influenced by the defensive secondary. Is the corner blitzing? Is the safety playing short? Will the quarterback make the hot read to find the single coverage downfield or option the ball to the runningback on a sweep? Even people not on the field – the coaches – will adjust their line-ups based on who the other team has on the turf. Each player’s action influences the action of the people around her, and a good player will influence everybody.
As one of the most successful quarterbacks in the LFL, Heather Furr knows all about the influences between the offense and the defense. She knows how to make the hot read; how to see the coverages and blocking schemes and take the appropriate action. She knows that she does will affect what the rest of the offense does, and how the other team reacts.
And as the second-oldest of seven children, Heather Furr knows that her actions have influenced her brothers and sisters growing up. In fact, she counts being a role-model for them as her greatest achievement.
“I try to be there for them whenever I possibly can, with my crazy lifestyle and all. I have 6 siblings, 5 of which are younger, and I want them to be able to look at what I’m doing and what I’ve done and have the drive and want to do something as well.”
“I’ve always been a tomboy; always was the girl watching sports and football on tv rather than painting my nails and curling my hair. My dad has four girls. Well, three girls and me. I think I was his one ‘boy’. I hated being forced to wear dresses and skirts. Didn’t wear make-up until I was 19. Same with coloring my hair, and all the other girlie stuff.”
Instead, little Heather preferred to spend her time running and playing with the boys.
She started out by playing t-ball with the boys and kept playing with them until she was 8; when she was old enough to start playing “real” sports like softball, basketball, volleyball, and track.
By high school she had established herself as a talented athlete, qualifying for the varsity squads in basketball, volleyball, and track her freshman year; going to State her junior year in the 300m hurdles, and in both the pole vault and doubles tennis her senior year. She was All-Conference all four years she was on the track team; running the 100m high hurdles, 300m low hurdles, high jump, triple jump, 4x400m relay, and pole vault.
“I played fast-pitch softball until I was 16 for my step-dad during the summer and in our last season we won the Class B State Championship. The letter B means that we didn’t recruit girls from outside our town. We were all Plainfield girls! I played center field; the captain of the outfield. And, I think where the fastest should play!”
After high school she attended Valparaiso University, a private Lutheran university, where she ran track and played basketball as a Crusader for two years before transferring to Elmhust College, a small liberal arts college. At Elmhurst, she was honored as the captain of the school’s basketball team (averaging 36 minutes on the court out of a possible 40) her senior year and close to that her junior year. She ran track with a specialty in the heptathlon, one of the most grueling events in competitive sports, and almost made it to Nationals throwing the javelin.
So why the LFL?
“Honestly, I questioned it. I didn’t question the football aspect, because after try-outs I knew it was going to be REAL football. I questioned the ‘L’ part of it. Playing half naked…really?!?! My dad was skeptical. I was skeptical. Can I ever go back to teaching now? I really don’t know, but after the first game my dad became my #1 fan. He said ‘This is what you are supposed to be doing right now’….. and I knew that. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and weighed the pros and cons and went with my gut feeling; knowing that this was for me and this is what I should be doing.”
“I have gone to my work to watch all of our games when they’ve aired and from that, if I walk around, people are like ‘Wait…was that you?!’ It’s good to know they were actually watching it! After that I say ‘yes’ and answer all of their 1,000 questions… after they stop giggling.”
Giggling? A 46.4 passing percentage, 4 touchdowns passing, 6 touchdowns rushing, and 173 yards combined offense with only 1 interception is nothing to giggle about. Add to that 9 solo tackles, 3 assists, and an interception against All-Fantasy quarterback Linda Brenner that sealed a Chicago victory over Dallas. She also was named a game MVP for her performance against conference rival San Diego, a legitimate conference title contender. That victory gave the Bliss a guaranteed play-off slot. Not exactly something to giggle about.
So would you say that sports are something that all people should do, to improve themselves and their quality of life?
“I think sports are an amazing thing, but for some people it’s not for them. I think it’s the idea of extracurricular involvement. It forces students to begin learning their time-management skills; prioritizing things better, and not procrastinating (as much). Sports was for me, was my thing. I couldn’t live without sports and without being able to play them. Anyone who has seen the trunk of my car can attest to that. I don’t go anywhere without anything. But for others, they might be into theatre, or the band, or math club. Who knows, but all of those things help students in so many ways. So for all the girls out there I would say find something you like to do after school, and do it. If sports isn’t your thing, it’s OK….but find something! There’s no point in doing something if you can’t give everything you have. I’ve given 110% to everything I’ve ever done. Honestly. I’m all in.”
Good advice. And a good lesson.
We decided to see if Heather had taught anybody else anything, too. So, we decided to ask the people that have known her the longest what lessons they’ve learned from their sister.
“Heather has taught me to make the best of every situation in life. Even when things are out of your control, a positive attitude and outlook can improve anything.” — sister Tiffany, 27, who played softball in the same program as Heather, and is the mother of little ones Oden and Ramsey.
“Have fun while you’re young and don’t settle with a career you aren’t passionate about.” — sister Nicole, 19, student at Lewis University and volunteer with the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
“Something I have learned from Heather is to go after what you want and not care what others think about you.” — sister Stephanie, 17, who currently wears #25 on her school’s varsity basketball team – the same number Heather wore when she played collegiate basketball – and who has committed to playing basketball at UW-Parkside next season.
“I would say how to succeed in life, whether it be skills I’ve learned to succeed in school, or tips and exercises on how to excel at the sports that I play, and even after you teach me these things you keep on encouraging and urging me to be better than the best than I can be. This is easily the most important thing I’ve ever learned in my life, and she taught it to me.” — Michael, 15, soon-to-be freshman baseball player.
“Heather has taught me life skills as well as academic skills throughout my life. The most memorable thing she has taught me was treat your friends and family how you would like to be treated. Since she hasn’t had the nicest childhood, she knows how to respect other people.” — Marshall, 12, football player for a youth league in Plainfield (and she loves talking to him about it).
Heather’s sister Sarah, 20, who currently helps with the family business while attending college, was not available for comment.
Football is a game of influence; how the offense influences the defense, how the defense influences the offense, and how each player influences the actions of the others next to her and across from her.
Life is like that, too.
If you think this article is just about Heather Furr playing football, you would be mistaken. You’re missing something; something that you can learn not by watching Heather Furr play, but by seeing the way she’s affected the decisions people make and the actions they take on and off the field, every practice, every game. That’s what a good player does.
That’s what a good teacher does, too.
Because none of us lives in a vacuum.