Lisa Spangler once set a goal of playing organized tackle football for 10 years.
Here she is, 10 seasons later, a senior at Fort Vancouver, preparing for her final game.
She won’t be playing football in college. In fact, she does not plan on attending college.
“I don’t think there’s a degree in badass-ery,” she said.
Instead, she wants to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
“The gym is my college,” she said.
For the past 10 years, the football field has been one of the places where Spangler became a bad—, well, you know.
We first wrote about Spangler when she was a sophomore at Fort Vancouver. A girl playing football is not really that newsworthy anymore. A girl playing linebacker, starting as a sophomore at the varsity level, well, that was a story.
This season, she even played a full game, on the line on offense and as a linebacker on defense.
“I don’t really like offense. Too many rules on offense,” she said. “On defense, it’s just go get the guy with the ball.”
At 5-foot-5, 142 pounds, she cannot overpower opposing linemen, but she does make plays using proper technique and brain power.
Todd Quinsey, who moved from California this summer to take over the head coaching duties at Fort Vancouver, acknowledged he did not give Spangler much thought.
“I probably stereotyped her like every other coach has,” he said. “There’s no way she could play at this level.”
It only took a day or so for Spangler to change Quinsey’s mind.
“She’s our best form tackler and one of the most fundamentally sound kids in everything we do,” Quinsey said. “She just knows how to play football.”
Her teammates accepted her a long time ago.
“The camaraderie is probably the best part of football,” Spangler said. “I’m the girl, but they brag about me because I’m a girl. I let them brag for me.”
Spangler started as a flag football participant. One day in practice, she accidently tackled a teammate.
“I thought that was a lot more fun,” she told me two years ago. “I asked my dad if I could play tackle. He said if I cry even once, he’d take me out. I never did.”
She ended up playing six seasons of Pop Warner tackle football before playing four seasons in high school.
Spangler might be too tough. Earlier this season she refused to tell her coaches about an injury she sustained, not wanting people to know she was hurt. The pain got worse, and eventually, it cost her some game action. In hindsight, it would have been better to fess up about the injury when it happened.
Can’t question her toughness, though.
After football, Spangler will try to return to the state championship for Fort Vancouver in girls wrestling. Then it will be time to focus on her career choice.
“I want to be Lisa ‘The Strangler’ Spangler.’ It’s just too perfect,” she said of her nickname.
But why mixed martial arts?
“It seems like a perfect job. You get to travel and eat food, and you get to beat up other women for sport,” she said.
“I couldn’t do a desk job. I’d go insane,” she said.
Before all that, there is one more football game. Fort Vancouver vs. Hudson’s Bay on Friday night. To complete her goal.
“I figured a decade of football would be good,” Spangler said. “A decade. It just sounds cool.”