Former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien’s daughter definitely has the looks to be a professional cheerleader. It’s something her mom, Annette, once did with the Washington Redskins.
Instead, Angela Rypien is a Lingerie Football League quarterback.
So maybe she took the best of her parents’ genes and put them to practical use.
The 21-year-old started the first two games for the LFL’s Seattle Mist, but she’s likely to be starting on the bench for Friday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Temptation at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
In the season opener, she threw three touchdown passes in a 42-8 win over the Green Bay Chill in late September. In the next game, she had three interceptions in the first half of a 28-24 loss to the Las Vegas Sin and was replaced.
So two games in, she’s experienced the highs and lows of a professional QB. But that’s not completely accurate, either.
The Lingerie Football League players aren’t paid. They’re asked to wear the Victoria’s Secret-looking tight shorts, padded bras and hockey helmets and play 7-on-7 on a 50-yard indoor field purely for the enjoyment of the paying spectators.
How does it all work?
Angela, the single mom of a 2-year-old living in Seattle, and Mark, the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI with the Redskins and former Washington State star who ended his 11-year NFL career in 2002, explain:
Q: Aside from the football already in your family DNA, what attracted you to playing in the Lingerie Football League?
AR: It looked like a lot of fun. I saw it on TV (the games are on MTV2) one night flipping through the channels with my dad and said, ‘Oh, my God.’ I’ve played a lot of team sports before, and I wanted to get back into something as an athlete, with the camaraderie and competition on a higher level and with the national TV recognition.
Q: But how serious do the fans accept that you’re serious about your playing?
AR: It depends on which fans you’re talking about. The ones who follow us, they take it serious. We have all kinds of fans who follow us on Twitter and Facebook and some fly to our road games. It’s a solid group. And I know because of my dad, there are fans of the Rypiens.
Q: Could that kind of following lead to having to worry about stalkers?
AR: I actually do worry about that. It’s crazy. When I’m on Twitter, I make sure I don’t say exactly where I am or what I’m doing or people will show up. I do get recognized. Sports Illustrated did a thing with me awhile back with my picture, and yesterday I was getting my oil changed, and one of the guys working there was checking my ID and credit card and figured out it was me. He had the magazine and had me sign it, and then I’m taking pictures with all of them. It was sweet and it made them happy.
Q: That Sports Illustrated mention was actually in the Oct. 17 issue, under the heading “Sign of the Apocalypse.” How was that received?
MR: It was unfortunate, but understandable. These girls have obviously had a brother or dad or grandfather or uncle love the game of football but never had a chance to play it. It’s something she has been dedicated to, traveling so much for practices while we’d watch her baby, our granddaughter. She’s been dedicated from the get-go on this.
Q: Has any of the exposure lead to requests for dates?
AR: I have got a couple of marriage proposals, but nothing I’m going to say ‘yes’ to. It does make things a little awkward, I’m not going to lie.
Q: How supportive to you feel your dad has been to you wanting to do all this?
AR: Some people appreciate the fact that as a great parent, he’s supporting me no matter what. But there are others who kind of look down on it. I don’t necessarily understand it. I think as players, we wear more clothes than the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but they’re not looked down on. It’s been interesting to me to see how he’s handled the attention I’ve got from this. He’s dealt with his fair share of being in the limelight and hype, and now having to see his daughter go through some of it, I think I have a new respect for him to see how he’s dealing with it all.
MR: I’ve gotten over the fact that she’s running around in a bra and panties, because I see the essence of what this has done for her from a character standpoint. She’s got her act together as far as finding something she loves. She enjoys the area where she lives and takes pride in it. No doubt, she has matured. She’s always been a bit of a free spirit anyway, and she realizes this can bring some direction and feel good about how she’s giving back to the community. I get a kick out of seeing that now. In Seattle, she really enjoyed being part of the Toys for Tots drive.
In the NFL these days, players come and go as they pass through the huddle, and they aren’t as entrenched in the community as they used to be. But if this league can stay afloat and put together some strong franchises, they’ll get some nice opportunities to stay in the community and be a positive force.
Q: I remember when the league had its first game – a Super Bowl halftime show on pay-per-view, from the L.A. Coliseum, which was opposite of the Janet Jackson exposure incident. I’m not sure it started off as something that could be taken seriously. Why at this point should those who hear about the league have a different opinion?
AR: I’ve talked to guy friends of mine who ask the same thing. They want to know if I’m really going to play or just to look good for the crowd. I said, ‘you know what, come to a game and you tell me. You’re the only ones who can decide.’ So they check out some YouTube clips, see it on TV, and after they saw us play, they had a lot of good positive feedback.
It probably took them five minutes to get over the fact that we’re out there playing, just trying to keep our tops on while we’re running and throwing. One girl got de-pantsed when she was running for a touchdown. But then it’s about cheering for us to try to score, or stop the other team’s offense. They see we’re playing real football.
I’ve only been playing eight months. Some of the players have been at it a year or two. So we’re always still learning. And we make mistakes. The athleticism is there, but being able to control the clock, know that we have to throw two times on every series, just staying on top of all that, it’s the hardest part to get used to. With time and repetition, it’ll be more about playing and less about what we’re wearing.
Q: But about the uniforms …. How much protection to they really provide? Are the rug burns as nasty as you’d think?
AR: The turf burns are the worst thing ever. I’d never had one until the last game. They take a long time to heal, and they stick to your clothes. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. I’ve got one on my left hip that goes all the way down my left leg. It’s ugly.
Q: Do the uniforms bother you?
MR: At the get-go, I was more, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ But I understand the reasons for it and why they have to sell the product. Do I totally agree with that? You know, it’s her call. I’m a dad, not too tickled about it, but I understand the hook and it’s not a big issue for me. There is a fine line to it. Maybe if they started wearing a thong, then they’d be crossing a line.
Q: Getting black and blue must not fit into the team colors?
AG: It’s why we don’t have more than four games a season right now. It takes a good week to two weeks to recover from the games. We are only doing this part time. We all have other jobs (a graduate of the Paul Mitchell School in Los Angeles, she is a stylist). We’re only practicing three times a week for a couple of hours, and then we have all these human collisions. Your body feels it for a long time. We do have the shoulder pads and hockey helmets, and the elbow and knee pads that don’t stay on whatsoever.
Q: You must be even more painfully aware of concussions, after what happened to your cousin (former NHL player Ryan Rypien, who suffered from depression and committed suicide last August).
AR: I do worry about concussions. I’m sure I’ve already had one but I just don’t know how severe. The hits we put on each other – especially a quarterback taking a hit from the blind side – can add up. I know my cousin suffered from it and it’s hard having that piece if information in your head, knowing you’re wearing the same kind of helmet.
Q: What do you hope to get out of playing in the league? You’ve got a nice website (www.angelarypien.com), you’re able to promote yourself quite well.
AR: I haven’t thought that far ahead. A year ago, I’d never have guessed I’d be here. My life seems to be changing by the day. I think 2012 will be a huge year for me. Things are really falling into place.
Q: If you’re really serious about playing football, why wouldn’t you compete in the other women’s football leagues, the ones that play outside on the 100-yard fields, with the full gear and everything?
AR: In some ways, it’s kind of sad that we have to do something that calls attention to ourselves by calling it a ‘lingerie’ league. In the years to come, they’ve talked about changing to a ‘ladies’ football league, or something like that. It is a great marketing scheme. At the same time, I don’t think the women who play on the other leagues get nearly enough as appreciation or exposure or respect. I do get recognized in this league. As far as the uniforms, I really don’t mind. I choose this direction. All the girls playing have put football before their careers and families and friends and life. It’s a huge commitment. It’s just getting used to knowing there’s seven girls on the other side of the line trying to take my head off and purposely hurt me.
MR: They do have to sell themselves, and I think they do it well. It’s like the LPGA or NASCAR. They have to take the time to sign the autographs and get their pictures after the game with everyone.
Q: How did you react after you were benched at halftime of the second game?
AR: I was pretty upset. Even after we won the first game, I was upset with my performance (completing just 6-of-16 passes for 81 yards), but I started working harder in practice, spending more time at the gym, watching more film. Then I just came out and didn’t do the job. Getting benched never feels good. I’ve never prepared myself for that.
Q: Is there any extra pressure to succeed because of the Rypien family name?
MR: I think she puts more pressure on herself than she needs to. There’s coaches and players and family and friends who know that shouldn’t be. She’s so raw and just learning the game. Maybe in a year or two, you aren’t puking all over yourself and you go to the next step. Eventually, you’d like to think she could be the face of this league, with her background and what she can bring. She’s physically talk and striking. She sees that she could be very marketable.
She’ll have her good games and her bad ones, but you can’t sit and sulk about the bad ones. You move on and make the next step. She’s still learning that throwing the ball around in the backyard is a little different than with live people coming after you. That’ll come with time. No matter what level you play on, you’ll get benched. It’s just that she’s part of a group that’s already working 9-to-5 jobs and raising kids. It suffers on the football side. You’ve only got a limited amount of time to practice.
Q: In the first game, you ended up getting a 10-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting another player who tackled you? What happened there?
AR: I’d only been playing eight months and I’ve never really been getting tackled in practice. So now it’s the first game, and it’s the first time I was ever really tackled. It was a good hit, nothing crazy. But it really caught me off guard. I didn’t like it, so I threw this temper tantrum and hit the girl before she got up, and the ref was right next to me and called it. But the funny thing was, I got back in the huddle, and I’m yelling at everyone, ‘C’mon, you gotta be kidding.’ They were looking at me, because they realized I didn’t know the penalty was on me. It all happened so fast.
Q: And you got an earful from your dad?
AR: I was back on the sidelines, and he came straight down to the bench and grabbed me and said, ‘If you ever do that again, I’ll pull off the field myself.’ I think he was more scared that I’d left myself vulnerable to getting hit harder the next time. When he’s scared, it comes out as anger, and I knew that. But some of the other girls were asking, ‘What just happened?’
MR: She punched the other gal in the stomach. She has to realize she’s a defenseless object out there in a vulnerable position. You don’t want to upset the other side and allow them to take a shot at you when you’re agitated. She figured out that lesson quickly.
Q: He’s never done that before to you during a game?
AR: He’s coached my hockey teams for five years when I was smaller, and sometimes if I got a penalty during a game, he’d pull me out. But nothing that extreme on a national TV game, giving me a scolding like that.
Q: Mark, how can you help Angela as far as technique or training or nutrition from your experiences?
MR: She moves around pretty well. She probably throws better than I do now. She does a good enough job but there are some physical flaws in how she throws. We could lengthen her throw a little more. She just has to watch how the guys do it, like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. With what she knows, she could be like a Tim Tebow for goodness sake. Do it with your legs if you have to, and if you have to throw, throw. She’s just got to find a way to manage the game and not feel any pressure on herself. She was really too small at the time when I was playing to watch me.
Q: A lot of people say they would play sports for free, and here’s a situation where you actually do. Why?
AR: For me, it’s just a great way to get out in the public eye and get my name out there. It doesn’t cost me anything to play.
Q: At least they provide health insurance?
AR: Yes, full coverage with health, which is awesome. We definitely need that.
Q: Mark, are you OK with the fact the players aren’t paid? Would you play for free?
MR: If you ask NFL players not to get paid, you don’t have a team. But they know it’s all about having to expose yourself – well, not expose. You know what I mean? You sell the product. They’re committed to making this happen. The plan is to compensate the gals after they get the strong sponsorships intact. This year is a barometer to see how things will go.
Q: And with the sponsors that the league has, it doesn’t seem as if you’d ever have to worry about finding a tanning salon or beauty supplies.
AR: It’s funny, last night we went through walk-throughs, and the coach made a point to remind us to ‘get your tans and make up’ . .. and then he paused and said, ‘As a football coach, I can’t believe I’m saying any of this.’ Obviously, it’s nothing a guy ever has to worry about, but that’s just part of our jobs to follow through with all that. I’m not complaining.