Female football player a champion in more ways than one

Writer: Sylvie Sparks Photographer: Ashleigh Melvin
Published: Updated:

Never taking no for an answer and becoming a champion in more ways than one, Nancy “Eric” Erickson was a star in the National Women’s Football League, a professional tackle football league for women, in the 1970s.

She helped her team create a lasting legacy and when she took off her football pads for the final time Erickson moved to DeSoto County and brought her passion for sports for all with her.

Erickson has been an athlete her whole life.

She remembers playing catch with her dad as a child in Minneapolis.

“I’d stand in the street and he’d throw the ball up and I’d have to locate it and find it and catch it,” Erickson said.

Erickson became a softball star, traveled the nation playing professionally and then got into coaching.

Then at 35 years old, she decided to give football a try.

“Their quarterback came to one of my softball games to recruit my center fielder. I have an uncle who was an all pro so I knew a little bit about football. He was my hero. I really had always wanted to play.”

Despite being 15 years older than everyone else, Erickson played middle linebacker and shuttle guard for the Toledo Troopers in the National Women’s Football League.

The Troopers won seven straight championships.

She played for the 1973 and 1974 title teams.

“Football is a game where you have to beat up on your best friend for three hours, three nights a week so you can go out and beat up on somebody else on the weekend and a lot of people can’t do that.”

After her football career, Erickson came to DeSoto County and helped to bring the Special Olympics to the area in 1974.

Of the many awards she has won Erickson told me the one she values most is her Lifetime Achievement Award from North American Special Olympics.

“It was all fun. I’d rather coach special athletes than I would regular athletes. They never say no.”

While she has many fond memories of being an athlete, she still treasures those years playing tackle football.

“Especially now that I’m alone and 85 years old, they’re the only group I’ve got left. We get together all the time.”

Erickson told me she looks at life as a team sport.

Her role now is to give back to younger generations.

Although she is retired, Erickson still fundraises for Special Olympics and is a part of developing a documentary about the Toledo Troopers.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.