“I’ve been playing for so long, at this point in my career I never really thought that I would be seen on the national stage,” said Casey, a Taunton resident whose career stretches back to 2002. “Now that we are, it’s a dream come true.”
Bonds’ basketball exploits are well known. She led Brockton High to a 2001 state title and then helped Bentley make the NCAA Div. II Final Four in 2003. But football has always been a big part of her life, too. The WFA’s regular-season and championship-game MVP during the 2018 campaign, she grew up spending Saturdays watching college football and Sundays watching the NFL while playing two-hand touch football in her neighborhood.
Finding an organized women’s tackle league to join was a challenge. Her first stop, in 2009, was the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), where she played for the New York Sharks. Two years later she switched to the WFA and suited up for the Renegades, originally called the Boston Militia. She hasn’t stopped playing since.
For Bonds and Casey, that first moment of playing on an actual football field was surreal.
“It was just very, very exhilarating,” Bonds said of her debut. “I remember being back on kickoff returns and the ball being kicked down the field towards me, picking it up, and just running full speed trying to dodge all the defenders and get to the end zone. It was a huge adrenaline rush and it was something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Bonds is a two-way player at defensive back and a slot receiver, like two of her favorite players — Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. When Bonds is on defense, she joins Casey, a middle linebacker.
Casey, who is also the athletic trainer at Old Colony Regional High in Rochester, said that during her time in the league, women’s football has evolved from a primarily run-only offense to one that is more diversified.
“We’re definitely above high school level, and I’d say we’re fairly close to college level with what we’re doing,” added Casey, who played volleyball, basketball and rugby at Bridgewater State. “I see how (the high schoolers) play and a lot of times I know what they’re going to do before they even do it.”
In past years when Casey told people she plays football, she would get questions like “Is it powder puff or flag football?” and she would quickly retort with, “It’s just like what you see on TV,” calling it “anybody’s sport,” regardless of gender.
Casey also plays alongside her partner, Erin Diette, who plays a mix of defensive end and right guard. Casey said the experience of being able to watch the documentary with Diette will be an unforgettable experience.
The members of the team saw an early draft of the documentary in 2019 but are excited about seeing the finished product. Casey says the Renegades, who play their home games in Revere, are hopeful that viewers can challenge stereotypes by seeing women in a “non-traditional role.”
“My hopes are for viewers to watch this documentary and come away knowing that women can play football at a high level,” said Bonds. “The other piece is I really hope when viewers watch the documentary they understand the sacrifices that we have to make as athletes in order to play this sport because we don’t have the support we need.”
“I just hope everybody enjoys it and when they do they start looking more into us and go out and see our games,” said Casey. “I really hope that this is going to be a springboard to something more for the league and the sport.”