As a charter member of the DC Divas, Donna Wilkinson has experienced many milestones as an empowering pioneer of female football in the nation’s capital district. From being part of USA Football’s gold medal winning efforts in international play to a career as a holistic health coach, motivational speaker and an articulate television personality on WUSA TV-9, the WFA national title brings Wilkinson’s career full circle.
Having competed at the running back, tight end and linebacker positions, Wilkinson’s versatility complements a strong leadership that propelled the Divas towards their undefeated regular since 2009. Wilkinson would finish the 2015 season ranked fourth on the Divas in rushing, providing solid depth on a rushing unit that also featured Kenyetta Grigsby and Cailie Brownson.
“Winning the WFA Title demonstrated that we accomplished the mission we set out on every year – to win a championship. We have been so close, so many times that the first feeling I had was of relief. We finally did it! Our mantra “we are on a mission” stayed true throughout the season, and we came together for one of the most magical seasons ever. It means that we all played our role and gave up something so that we could achieve everything.”
Throughout the seasons, the Divas have served as one of the model franchises in the WFA. Consistently in the championship conversation, the club endured obstacles in the likes of clubs from Boston and Chicago. This season, such obstacles were eradicated as the Divas defeated Boston twice this season, and redeemed themselves for past postseason heartbreak by defeating Chicago in the conference title game.
Competing against the Dallas Elite (formerly known as Diamonds) in the WFA national title game, there was no shortage of award winners on either side. Tia Watkins was recognized as the National Conference Defensive Player of the Year while Divas head coach Alison Fischer earned WFA Coach of the Year honors. Odessa Jenkins, who played alongside Wilkinson on Team USA 2013, earned Owner of the Year recognition with the Elite, while Nicole Coffin was honored as American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Although the Elite boasting the number-one ranked defense and offense in the nation, the Divas assembled a solid game on both sides of the ball, showing no fear. Managing to exhaust and demoralize their powerhouse opponents in the opening half, the Divas marched out to a 27-12 advantage at halftime.
Despite a very strong start against the Dallas Elite, the second half of the WFA national title game was one of tremendous highs and lows for both teams. As the Elite were attempting to mount a comeback, the outcome of the game depended on the final possession. With Divas quarterback Allyson Hamlin (the only QB in Washington football history with at least 200 career touchdown passes) gaining the first down with seconds to play, preserving a 30-26 lead. There were feelings of both jubilation and relief among the Divas sideline as the franchise secured its first championship since the 2006 NWFA title.
Considering Wilkinson’s storied career with the Divas, the championship glory was only part of the experience. Having played alongside so many other women in the Divas colors for over a dozen years, Wilkinson’s thoughts extended to their contributions.
“When we secured the win I thought we really did it, we hung in there and we did it! I immediately reflected back on all the players who have played on this team the past years who were not there, but who had been a part of building us to where we are today. I felt so much love for everyone who had ever been a part of our team. It was a special moment for all of us.”
Throughout the championship celebrations that have defined this off-season, Wilkinson was very proud at the way the Washington sports community pulled together. Such a triumph for the Divas became one that was shared among others, a great time to show civic pride.
Of note, Divas players were invited by the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Washington Mystics to appear at a game. In addition, the Divas signed autographs and appeared in photos with gracious fans, a great sign of class. The result was an opportunity in Washington sports to raise awareness about the empowering women that represent the national capital district.
Among such proud moments of recognition, a significant one came from their male football counterparts, the National Football League’s Washington Redskins. One of the club’s writers composed a commentary about the Divas remarkable season on the Redskins site, praising their efforts and their exciting championship victory. Taking into account that the victory came against Dallas, the writer pointed out how it brought back feelings of the fabled Redskins rivalry with divisional opponents, the Dallas Cowboys.
“We have had a wonderful welcome home from the local sports teams and it means a lot to be recognized by the Redskins and Mystics. We need the support of all the great fans in Washington as we grow the sport of women’s football and bring it to a greater audience.”
While entry into the Divas Hall of Fame is an eventuality, Wilkinson’s grace, sportsmanship and valor also make her a Hall of Famer in the community. As the WFA national title marks a remarkable pinnacle in Wilkinson’s incomparable career,
“I would like to dedicate the win to every member of the team who showed up day in and day out to make us better; to the coaches and management who are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence; and to all the “Divas 4 Life” who no longer play, but have helped us build this franchise into the organization we are today.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”Powered by Sidelines