Madison, Maine native Jessica Hayden
Jessica Hayden, middle, prepares to block a defender during a Boston Renegades game last season. © 2019 Mitzi Velez Lorenzana

Maine native making impact in women’s football league (Morning Sentinel)

July 18, 2020

Jessica Hayden of Madison embraces her competitive side as a key member of the Boston Renegades

“It was like a movie. It kind of happened in slow motion,” Hayden said.

The championship game’s start was delayed by lightning, giving Hayden, Gauvin, and other rookies time to overthink the impending contest.

“We’re sitting in the locker room, and all of us rookies are like ‘What are we gonna do?’ The veterans are like ‘Don’t worry. We know what to do,’” Gauvin said.

Between the delayed start, the thinner mountain air, and the exhaustion that comes from playing in a championship game, Hayden said she’s never been as tired as she was when the game was over. Still, the Renegades celebrated their championship together at the hotel, but many had to get up early for flights back to Boston.

That’s the thing about playing in the Women’s Football Alliance. Nobody is making any money. Each player pays $750 before the season to offset the costs of things like officials and fields, but that accounts for just one-third of the money needed, Hayden said. The rest is raised through fundraising.

A portion of the dues pays for hotel rooms for road games, but players are required to get themselves to those road games. In 2019, the Renegades played regular season games in Tampa, Washington, D.C., New York, and Baltimore. Late night and early morning flights are the cheapest, Hayden said.

The Renegades were three weeks from the 2020 scheduled season opener against the New York Wolves on April 11 when the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They had gone to Baltimore to hold a training camp with the Baltimore Nighthawks just before coronavirus restrictions swept the nation. Boston will go for the threepeat in 2021.

“Nobody’s done that in women’s football. We have a big target on our back,” Hayden said.

Hayden will play a big role in whatever the team does. Johnson is already scheming.

“We’re going to expand her role a bit. She can run and catch,” Johnson said. “She’s a freak of nature athlete. In the championship game, she had two quarterback pressures. She hunts the ball. (Offensively,) A lot of those big runs were behind her.”

Playing for the Renegades gives Hayden’s competitive fire a release. She’s ready to pancake block anybody who gets in her way.