A Force in Pittsburgh Football

This Pittsburgh wide receiver has suffered through a dislocated shoulder, a ruptured right Achilles and left knee cartilage issues, “but nothing keeps me down,” the player boldly notes.

The receiver has won a championship and also is gearing up for a big season.

Think you know the receiver?

Hines Ward? No.

Mike Wallace? Wrong again.

Put away the Steelers roster, and meet Wilma Walton, a tough-as-nails, dynamo receiver for the Pittsburgh Force of the Women’s Football Alliance.

Walton, a 2000 Radford University graduate who played basketball for the Highlanders, has been gliding past defensive backs and hauling in passes in women’s professional football for the past five years. She played her first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Passion, helping the team win the National Women’s Football Association national championship in 2007.

However, this season Walton will suit up for the first time with the Force, whose first game is with… You guessed it: the in-town rival Pittsburgh Passion.

“Whoever wins will be the best women’s football team in the ‘Burgh,” said Walton, who participated in Radford University’s alumni women’s basketball game during Winter Homecoming 2011. “This will be the first year these two teams have been in the same league and able to compete against each other. I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”

The game is a big deal, big enough that Walton and the Force began preparing in January for the showdown, which kicks off the 2011 season.

“We are conditioning and becoming stronger, faster and also adding a new offense and defense,” said Walton, who throughout the spring had her nose buried in the team’s extensive playbook, making certain she knows her routes and assignments. 

Walton’s knowledge of the team’s offense, coupled with her on-field experience, gives her a distinct advantage over defenses scheming to stop her. “As a veteran player, I have learned to read what the defense gives me,” she said.

Walton, who wears No. 1 for the black-and-gold-clad Force, also has developed some slick moves that help free her from aggressive defensive backs. “I use various maneuvers such as the swim move and the jab and go,” to get open, Walton says.

And sometimes, she simply turns on the burners to make her way past pesky DBs. “I just outrun the defense off the line if they are playing too close,” says Walton, who doesn’t mind being compared with Steelers receivers Ward and Wallace.

And speaking of the Steelers, yes, Walton is a big fan… a Hines-Ward-jersey-wearing, Terrible-Towel-twirling, black-and-gold-bead-sporting Steelers fan, who, along with the city of Pittsburgh, was devastated in February when the Steel City’s team lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

“When the Steelers lost... wow, the city was in a depression,” Walton said. “No one wanted to talk when walking up and down the sidewalks in downtown Pittsburgh.”

Despite the devastating loss, Walton quickly bounced back, ready to write her own stories of gridiron glory.

“I’m looking forward to a fun, hard hitting, injury free and winning season!” she said.