Growing up in Pennsylvania, Danielle Gassler was always involved in sports; softball, field hockey, and basketball mostly. In high school she chose to focus on basketball and became so good at it that she qualified for the popular VIA All-Star Classic, an elite basketball event featuring the best senior players from 36 high schools in the Lehigh Valley region. She also qualified for the state’s North PA vs South PA all-star game, featuring the best high school senior basketball talent in all of Pennsylvania.
So why does a girl so talented in basketball decide to lace up a pair of cleats and take to the gridiron?
Blame Philadelphia Passion All-Fantasy star Lauren LaBella.
“I have always been athletic and football was one of my favorite sports. I was the football manager for three years in high school because that’s the closest I could get to being on the team. I heard about the LFL from Lauren LaBella, and she told me to try-out. I was excited after watching some videos of the games because I saw how the girls hit hard and I wanted to be a part of that. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of playing in the uniforms, but once I saw how hard the girls work I was so excited to be part of this league. People don’t understand that, even though we are playing in lingerie-style uniforms, it only makes it harder on us. On top of everything else a football player does, we have to worry about our body image and stay in shape.”
With LaBella’s encouragement, she gathered her things and went to try-outs. She listened to the coaches as they explained the drills. She watched and studied, and when it was her turn, she went for it.
She made the team.
“I was recognized by people I knew after I made the team. I went to visit some friends in Philly and they all kept yelling ‘LFL!’ to me. It was a good feeling knowing that people actually know about the LFL and stayed up to date on my journey through the tryouts.”
But if try-outs were tough, the real work was just beginning. She trained. She practiced. She studied. And then she trained some more. On a team loaded with talent, she would have to fight for a position. She did. She soon made a name for herself at practice as a reliable receiver for first-year quarterback Christy Bell’s passes.
And then came the team’s first game of the season.
“So many things were going through my mind. ‘Don’t forget the plays. Don’t fumble. Don’t drop the ball. Don’t trip running on the field’, haha! Once the ball was snapped on that first play, all the nervousness left me. Playing in front of so many fans was probably the best feeling. I was an athlete in high school but you knew almost everyone who went to your games because they were your friends and family and family of your friends. Here, you have people that you don’t know yelling and cheering for you and supporting you. Hearing my name being yelled was such motivation and drive to really show them what I’ve got.”
And that’s exactly what she did, scoring a pair of touchdowns – one in the air and one on the ground – and being involved in just about every play on the field.
So what does a rookie phenomenon consider the most difficult part of football?
It’s not the work-outs. It’s not the physical training. It’s not the studying and then training some more.
“I would say becoming ‘one’ as a team and trusting each other; or in other words ‘Holding the Rope’, as we would say. You will never win a championship unless you trust your teammates, and they trust you. I think that’s why the Passion is a big contender because those girls are like my sisters. We all instantly clicked and became a family. I trust those girls to be there for me no matter what. Without trust in your teammates, it’s extremely hard to win games.”
Any advice you’d like to pass along?
“Don’t waste your life wishing you would have done something. Life is short and unpredictable and you should never waste your time thinking ‘I should have…’ because you let an opportunity to do something go by. Do it, because you never know; you might not have that opportunity again. Go for it and give it your all. You never know about something unless you give it a try.”
And that’s exactly what’s she’s doing; every single play, every single down.
Giving it a try. Giving it her all. Going for it.
What: Philadelphia Passion at Miami Caliente
Where: FIU Stadium
When: Friday, 9pm Eastern
Tickets available at http://www.ticketmaster.com and at the FIU Stadium box office