Quarterback Sami Grisafe comes out of retirement, returns to the Chicago Force

Wed. March 8, 2017 11:00 AM by Ross Forman

sami grisafe

photo credit // chicago force football

Singing sensation also has been a gridiron great on the local and international field

Chicago, IL - She's baaaack!

Yep, Sami Grisafe, arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of women's tackle football, is returning to the Chicago Force after a two-year retirement.

The eight-game Force regular-season kicks off in April and the home opener is May 6, when Chicago plays host to the Minnesota Vixen, with kickoff set for 6 p.m., at Evanston Township High School.

Grisafe's return was spurred by team owner Linda Bache, who has announced the 2017 season will be the team's last, though new owner(s) could potentially acquire the team. And the Force, Grisafe said, has become her "surrogate family" over the past decade or so.

"The idea of getting to play football with my sisters for one more year put a lot of joy in my heart, (and) I saw an opportunity to redeem myself after my injury-stricken season in 2014," Grisafe said. "I feel good about the decision. Football is my first love. You can never completely get your first love out of your system. Luckily, I still have gas in the tank and am fortunate enough to continue playing. It's also nice to still feel wanted by my teammates, coaches, and management."

Still, Grisafe said it was a "very difficult" decision to put her pads back on.

"The last 2 ½ years I have made some great progress in my (singing) career. Playing another season (of football) would mean pulling the focus from my music and might feel like a step backward," she said. "Luckily, I have fantastic people in my life who are supportive and look at obstacles as opportunities for great progress."

Grisafe, 31, who now lives in Los Angeles and Chicago, is a singer/songwriter, not just a football slinger. Her football career has been nothing short of amazing. Just consider:

- She joined the Force in 2007 while studying acting at Roosevelt University, and ultimately was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year.

- In 2011, she had 1,746 passing yards and 24 touchdown passes, and along with teammate Jeanette Gray, was named Co-Offensive Players of the Year.

- In 2012, she was named the co-MVP of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA) Championship Game, though Chicago lost game, which was the first women's tackle football game played on an NFL field (Heinz Field in Pittsburgh).

- In 2013, Grisafe led the Force to the WFA Championship title, beating the Dallas Diamonds 81-34. She finished the 2013 WFA and Team USA seasons with a combined 4,301 passing yards and 57 touchdown passes.

In eight seasons with the Force, Grisafe was a seven-time Player of the Game, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, two-time Team MVP, League MVP (WFA), and three-time All-American (WFA), among other accolades.

"I missed playing immensely," Grisafe said. "I missed my sisters. I missed the competition. I missed the simplicity in knowing that if you work hard for something, there is a good chance the hard work will pay off. 

"Music is so subjective. In the arts, music or acting, there are so many factors that determine whether you will have a successful career or not. It's like playing a game without down markers or a clock. You don't know if the decisions you are making are moving you closer to the end zone (for) a touchdown. 

"Even though music is a different animal than sports, I still refer to the principles football has taught me: work hard, focus on details, do more than talk about doing, put others before myself, don't be a jerk. These rules have guided me well in football and haven't failed me in music. I think being submerged in both this upcoming season will help give me perspective for both."

Grisafe graduated from Redlands High School in California in 2003, having played one year of football on the freshman football team and one year on the varsity squad, becoming the first woman in California to play quarterback in a Varsity Division I game.

After retiring from the Force, she only attended a few games as a fan.

"At first it was very difficult (being retired)," Grisafe admitted. "I didn't realize how much of my identity is attached to football. It was nice to be able to completely focus on music, but I found myself missing that competitive piece in my life. Just focusing on music did help me zoom out and see life from a different perspective. I think having both football and music simultaneously after my time off will also reveal things to me in both disciplines. I'm looking forward to making those discoveries and enjoying the two things that make me happiest in life."

Naturally, Grisafe said the highlight of her football career centers on the Force championship campaign of 2013.

"I believe this 2017 team has the potential to also hold that title," she said.

Grisafe's 2017 season will be anything but easy – if only from a logistics standpoint.

She will fly into Chicago every Tuesday evening, in time for practice and leave every Sunday morning on the earliest flight back to Los Angeles. 

"Yes, I feel I have something to prove to myself. I want to see what I am capable of accomplishing when I am in stellar shape, am eating healthy, and have put my all into the mechanics, reads, and leadership," Grisafe said. "We have been successful in the past, but I think we can go further. I want people to watch a game and be blown away by the athleticism on the field and the cohesiveness of our team. I want the Chicago Force to raise the bar for women's tackle football and become an example of what our game strives to be. That's what I would like us to prove.

"The championship is not the goal this year. We are focusing on something much bigger than a trophy and a title. We are looking to break records and change the perception of women's tackle football. If achieved, we will earn the championship by proxy. This is going to be an exciting season."

Grisafe moved to Los Angeles a year ago and in 2016 released two songs:

"All-Un-American" and "Every Year on Christmas." She also co-founded and hosts a weekly, private concert series in Brentwood called SunSeshLA (sunsesh.la). "Unlike most venues, we curate our shows and book artists based on talent and professionalism," she said. "All of our acts, music and comedy, have been vetted live. Being a part of SunSeshLA and continuing to write and perform my own music helps me raise the bar for both platforms, as an artist and advocate for the arts. 

For more information on the 2017 Chicago Force season, including ticket information, go to: https://gopride.com/Zcwg