Having attained superstar status in her second season with the Austin Acoustic, it was one filled with accolades and honors for quarterback Teshay Winfrey. One of the Acoustics charter players, her rise to prominence runs parallel to the franchises existence, holding tremendous promise for greater days to come for both. Quickly establishing herself as one of the leagues most durable and reliable passers, she has also become one of its premier offensive threats, becoming the driving force for the Acoustics postseason aspirations.
In the aftermath of the 2017 Legends Football League season, Winfrey was named one of the finalists for the Offensive Player of the Year Award. Said finalists were all from teams based in the Western Conference, testament to the quality of its compelling competitors. Joined by teammate Kassandra Bills, who finished her first season in Austin as one of the leagues top wide receivers, the other finalists included Carmen Bourseau of the Los Angeles Temptation, plus Stevi “The Bull” Schnoor of the league champion Seattle Mist.
It was the kind of landmark moment that not only heralded her arrival as one of the leagues elite field generals, it was a convincing declaration as to her status as a franchise player. The feeling of pride that comes with such recognition was further enriched by having the Award bestowed upon her. Becoming the first player in Acoustic franchise history to capture a major award, it entrenches her legacy as a key figure of its formative years,
“Being nominated for Offensive Player of the Year, to this day, is still surreal to me, because the ladies that were in the category with me are all very talented ladies, so to win was definitely a blessing. To be named Offensive Player of the Year when there are so many amazing athletes is just unbelievable but I am extremely grateful. What that also means to me is that I have to keep working hard to get better and better.”
Statistically, Winfrey was a revelation in 2017. Finishing the season as the leagues top rated passer, the only element that may be even more impressive was the fact that Winfrey did not throw one interception. Considering that the league features marquee quarterbacks in the likes of Jayne Caldwell, Dakota Hughes, Ashley Salerno and Morgan Spencer, among others, Winfrey stood shoulder-to-shoulder, staking her claim with a numeric domination that was defined by leading the league in passing yards and completions.
Displaying tremendous versatility by including a running game into her offensive repertoire, the highly mobile Winfrey ranked second on the Acoustic in rushing behind Kendri Robinson. Finding a prime receiving target in Bills, the offensive synergy between the two should only reach greater heights next season, poised to propel the Acoustic into the playoff conversation.
Garnering the Acoustic’s Most Valuable Player honors, it represents more than a career highlight for her. It stands as a proud symbol that encompasses her admirable devotion to the team. Proud to wear the Acoustics colors, the MVP nod is one that accentuates why the team has proudly become a second family to her. In reflecting on the honor, Winfrey’s tremendous maturity is evident, a shining example of her strong leadership.
“I actually received MVP for my team and that recognition, believe it or not, meant more to me than anything, because everything I do is to be the best for my team and my sisters, so it meant a lot getting MVP for my team. The leagues top rated passer is an amazing accomplishment but to me that is just a stepping stone. My plan, every year, is to improve and to find ways to become a great player not just quarterback. Being a great passer is only part of what it takes to be a great quarterback.”
Possessing tremendous character and a desire to succeed, qualities that will enable her to ascend from superstar to one of the games greats, Winfrey’s value to the team was accentuated in a series of valiant efforts that raised the profile of its offense, with a passing game emerging as one of the most feared in the league. With the season opener taking place at the H-E-B Center against the Seattle Mist, Winfrey helped set the tone for her team, displaying tremendous grace under pressure. Taking into account that the Mist were the defending Western Conference champions, she refused to be intimidated.
With the Acoustic decked out in pink uniforms, Winfrey was ready to play, fearlessly challenging the Mist defense, as evidenced by an 11-yard touchdown strike to Bills, providing the underdogs with a quick 7-0 lead. The first half would result in a superlative collaboration between this remarkable duo, as Winfrey found Bills in the end zone for another pair of touchdowns. Holding a 20-14 lead, the Mist would tie the game before halftime. Although the Mist would make adjustments in the second half and bounce back to prevail in the game, Winfrey made a profound statement about her ability to hold her own against one of the leagues powerhouse teams.
Winfrey’s drive and athletic gifts were first cultivated on the hardcourt. Having competed at the NCAA level with the University of Texas Pan-American from 2005-09, she ranks among the Top 10 all-time scoring leaders with 826 career points. Undoubtedly, her on-court vision resulted in a seamless transition to the gridiron, quickly developing an ability to read opposing defenses, while driving her team down the field with a confident presence. Although such skills were utilized much more effectively in 2017, as the results of 2016 involved the usual adjustment period and growing pains that define any expansion season, Winfrey has grown into the position with great vigor.
“Compared to my first year I think the big difference was the actual will and want to be the quarterback. My first year I did not have the mentality of being quarterback because, I kind of, was put in the position because the original quarterback got hurt. Yet, this year, I knew that I did not want anyone to take my position, so my mind set changed and I made sure I did everything to make sure that did not happen.
As far as my teammates, we definitely did some recruiting and found some great talent that worked really well with some of the veterans we had coming back. Also, we had a great new addition as a head coach whom actually took the time to teach us the game of football and open our eyes and see the game so differently.”
While Winfrey approaches the future with tremendous optimism, she has already carved a sensational body of work that has established her as a key player in the early lore of the Acoustic. In reflecting on her first two seasons with the club, her defining moment came long before the opening kickoff.
Although the first tryout for the Acoustic was prologue for the glories that followed, it served as a captivating conduit for Winfrey, finding the forum to extend her athletic endeavors, while endearing herself to a new group of teammates where the sense of family first emanated. Establishing herself as a gridiron warrior, she has captured the imagination of Texas football fans, part of a new generation of women making their mark in sporting equality.
“Looking back, I must say, what really stands out to me is the Austin Acoustic first official tryout, because it was the beginning of a sisterhood and bond that will always be part of my life.”
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated