Sunday, April 24, 2016

Returning to Charles City

Our group was given free pizza on our visit to Charles City. This facilitated my post, but all opinions are honest and my own.

It had been about 10 years since I had visited Charles City, and boy was I blown away on my visit this week. I jumped at the chance to join some of my fellow North Iowa Bloggers on a #FutureReady school tour of the new Charles City Middle School, simply due to the nature of my work, but I was also completely impressed by our other stops! We started our morning at Aroma's Coffee on main street. Now I've been to a lot of coffee shops in my travels across not just the state, but the country. And because I know what I like, I have tried a LOT of chai lattes. I can honestly say that the Aromas vanilla chai easily makes the top 3 on my "Best Chai" list. It was fantastic. In fact, because we met there in the morning and I had to go back and get my car, I went back for a second one before I left town. So what's cool about Aromas, other than the chai, is that they roast all their own coffee beans on site. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I had no idea that raw coffee is green. They also only sell coffee. It's not a sandwich shop, it's a coffee shop, which means they focus on making truly great coffee for their customers, in addition to roasting the coffee for several other coffee shops in the Midwest, which is super cool.

After our school tour (more on that will be featured on my team blog at work,, we went to Cedar River Pizza. Right now it's a carry-out pizza place, although they're working with Main Street Iowa to develop a really cool, small seating area in the back. So we get to CRP and we're invited to check out the facility, where they make all their own dough for the crust and grate all their own cheese to the consistency that they want, before making everything with fresh ingredients. We got to try a few different types of pizza, including a meat lovers style, and one that had several different kinds baked into one pie. Each month Joel, the owner, comes up with a "pizza of the month" that is not on the regular menu. It's available until they run out, and then he starts thinking about the next idea. Not only is the vibe of this place really cool, the pizza is incredible. After we sampled the pizzas for lunch, I went back to purchase an extra of the Mediterranean to take home for dinner for my family. I'd never had pizza with artichokes and kalamata olives, and it was seriously one of the best pizzas I've ever had.

I told you I hadn't been to Charles City in about 10 years, but I can also tell you it has a lot more for me to explore, and I'll definitely be back this summer! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

All Grown Up: Tyler Kibbee, Linebacker

As I continue my mini-series, "All Grown Up," a look at adult athletes who continue to train and compete at high levels of intensity, this story 100% made me smile. In fact, as I'm putting it together, I can't wait to share it with my daughter. Most of you know that R has been dealing with a knee injury for several months now, and she's starting to get frustrated. If you Google "for love of the game" you'll find a baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, but you should really find this story. Everything step of Tyler's journey illustrates complete love of the game - something we can all only hope to be lucky enough to find.

Give me your "football timeline" - tell me about the teams you've played on starting from the beginning.
I started playing organized football in the third grade through a flag football league in Mason City, IA. I started playing in pads in the seventh grade for Roosevelt Middle School in Mason City, IA were I served as the team’s starting quarterback.  My freshman year I played on the freshman team and served as the starting quarterback for the Mason City Mohawks.  My sophomore year I started at the sophomore level for three games before our senior quarterback went down with a season ending injury (broken jaw).  I got the call from the coach when they were on the ride back from the game asking if I would like to play in the junior varsity game the following Monday against West Waterloo High School. I talked it over with my dad and agreed to play knowing there would be a chance to get varsity time in Friday’s game if I played well.  I was in competition with a junior quarterback and we both made our fair share of plays in the junior varsity game against West Waterloo High School.  We won the game and I got “the call” up to play on the varsity team.

I was excited it was homecoming week for us against our rival Fort Dodge High School, and there was a new traveling trophy on the line (Decker Sports Traveling Trophy).  They didn’t like us and we didn’t like them which had the makings a violent yet great football game.  I got the nod to go into the game about two series into the game, and didn’t do much we moved the ball but the drive ended on a poor decision on my part with an interception going into the red zone. I didn’t see much time after that as the junior quarterback took the remainder of the snaps.  I was moved to a running back position after that game and stayed there the remainder of the season.

Enter my junior season for the Mohawks I primarily played junior varsity games because we didn’t have another quarterback to take snaps.  I also played a lot of varsity minutes splitting time with the now senior quarterback from the year before.  I was named the JV player of the year for the team that season.  It was finally my time to take the reins of the offense my senior year.  I was lucky enough to gain a lot of varsity experience, and attend multiple quarterback camps to put myself in a position to run the offense with success.  The down side was I was coming off my ACL #1 surgery which happened during wrestling season, BUT I made it back just time for training camp to start. I was named Mr. Mohawk at the end of the season, which was a great honor, and received a few other team honors as well.

I decided after careful consideration to take my efforts to Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, IA where I initially majored in Athletic Training.  I went in as a quarterback and after a few days of camp saw that I wouldn’t fit the system based off my height and asked to move to fullback hoping to make the two deep and be able to travel with the team. I learned really quick how to be violent at the point of attack on ISO blocks and POWER kick out blocks.  I entered my sophomore season as the starter because the gentleman in front of me transferred out, BUT by the time training camp ended I was moved to the defensive side of the ball as a safety.  Finally my senior year came around and I was listed as our third safety, which meant I was going to get more playing time. Fourth game into the season against Cornell College not even five minutes into the game my season ended.  I was covering a punt in which I broke down in front of the return man and got hit from behind in the process of breaking down, Torn ACL #2 was the diagnosis.

I had surgery and helped our defensive back coach the remainder of the season.  I finally got the green light to start competing again during spring ball after being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA.  Talk about some bad luck I made it through warm-ups and into 1-on-1’s and two routes in went to cut on an out route and went down… Tore the other ACL #3.  I was given the option to have surgery and be done playing or fight like hell to get back for my redshirt senior season.  I made the decision to fight back and made it back in time for conference play the following season.  I went backwards in my career and was once again serving as a scout team player for most of the season, BUT to be honest I wasn’t at 100% and had no right to be competing for a starting position.  My thoughts were to come back and finish what I had started and to be able to say I did it.  I was given the chance to play on the kick off team and I couldn’t have been happier to be able to play again.

After all the injuries, what brought you to playing amateur football?
I started to play Adult Amateur Football during the summer of my junior and senior year at the risk of injury and having my college coaches upset.  I did it to gain more experience and to be able to play the game I love dearly.  I was a member of the Albert Lea Grizzlies in the SPFL in which my first season I was graced with new comer of the year.  My second season with the Grizzlies we made it to the SPFL championship falling short to the South Central Hawgs. I played cornerback and quarterback for the Grizzlies in the two seasons I played.  I didn’t play Adult Amateur Football again until after my Redshirt Senior season where I joined the Burlington Express.  I served as their offensive coordinator and starting quarterback.  The season was a struggle as we were a new team however we bonded as teammates - a few of us are still teammates today with the Midwest Rampage. I joined the Midwest Rampage in the SPFL the following year and started the season as the starting quarterback. Second game of the season midway through the second half I was run out of bounds and into a set of bleachers on the sideline in which case my knee buckled.  I had an MRI done with a doctor I was very familiar with in Mason City, IA and was told my ACL in my left knee was not getting any blood flow going to it.  In a roundabout way, he said you are without an ACL in your left knee due to having two surgeries. I will not operate if you continue to play football.  He was not angry with me but he was real with me, and he gave me the option to rehab and continue playing. It took me the remainder of the season to rehab back and be able to play in the last regular season game and the playoffs.  I came back as a role player and finished the season with the Rampage. I came back for my second season entering this time as an outside linebacker.  We had a good season making it to the semi-finals and falling short in the last minutes.  I was yet again graced with being a finalist for linebacker of the year and defensive MVP.  I am now entering my third season with the Midwest Rampage and my passion for the game is stronger than it has ever been.  I told my fiancĂ© this season has me feeling like a kid again where I fell in love with every aspect of the game of football.

What has been the biggest life lesson you have taken away from football?
Understanding that teamwork and family are the most important things in life.  Everything you learn in the game of football is applicable in just about any situation you get into.  I also learned that if you truly love something, don’t stop doing it, enjoy what you do in life because you won’t always be given the chance to do so.  Lastly the work ethic it takes to continue playing such a violent game is a work ethic that few can match, and that is something to be proud of.

Why, in such a high impact sport, do you keep playing now?
After having three ACL surgeries due to sports, I probably should stop playing. It is two things and my guess is it’s probably a little of both - stupidity and love of the game.  I say stupidity because I know better than to push my body like I do, BUT it is something I love to do and I’m not ready to back away as a player.  I still loving pushing myself to exhaustion in training and I love stepping on the field with my teammates working towards the goal of winning a ball game.  I love the mental preparation that goes into getting ready for a game, understanding scouting reports and reading keys on opposing teams.  I love the violence that is created at the point of contact on any given collision.  I love giving a hit as much as I love taking a hit because that is a part of the game.  So yes, I probably am a little crazy in the head, but at least I love what I’m doing and when I look back I can be happy about what I accomplished rather than thinking I wish.

Are there any connections you've found between coaching and continuing to play? Do you train the kids differently? Train yourself differently? Do they know you play?
With today’s generation of kids you have to change your coaching style.  Not every kid will respond to a in your face style of coaching, and I learned that the hard way my first year as a coach.  I’m much better at staying calm and talking to the kids, which gets them to respond and perform at a higher level - which is the complete opposite of how I play the game.  I’m somewhat loud and obnoxious when I play because I like to bring energy to the team.  I’ve always had good attention to detail in my personal preparation, which carried over to being prepared as a coach as well.  Some of the kids know [I play, but] it isn’t something I flaunt around anymore.  I’m proud that I’m still playing the game, BUT I leave it up to others to decide if they want to be involved with that aspect.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

All About the Shoes

A few things you should know about me.

1. I love shoes. I love sandals, I love tennis shoes, but most of all, I love high heels. Crazy high.
2. I love my sports teams. I'm not one of those fans who owns a shirt and says I'm a fan. I'm 100% all in - although that level of passion makes it tough to care about many teams at once, so I usually stick to just a couple.
3. I'm really good at finding things I think I can't live without. And once I've decided I can't live without it, I make it happen.

Anyway, it only made sense that one day I would Google "Colts shoes."

And so it began. I came across an Etsy store called Glam and Glory Lab, and fell in love with the glitter. Glitter plus football? Hello, my name is Leslie, and I have a problem. After the husband convincing me that I didn't need three different pairs, he agreed that purchasing the Colts pair was appropriate.

So in October of 2014 I ordered my first pair of Colts shoes. They actually have a really fast turn around time. Production is about two weeks, and shipping was just a couple days, so I had my shoes in plenty of time to wear for our girls trip to watch the Colts play the Cowboys in Dallas (let's not talk about that game). EVERYONE loved them, even the Cowboys fans.

Now when I ordered them, people asked the obvious questions.
How can you walk in those? My standard answer is, "practice." Because how else do you answer? "One foot in front of the other" seems like it would come across a bit sarcastic. I then typically proceed by telling the story of the time I wore a favorite pair of grey sling backs to Colts training camp and chased Clint Session (former Colts LB), who was in a GOLF CART, the half the length of the practice field in order to get his autograph. Successfully. I am no strangers to high heels, my friends. What are you going to wear those with?! A favorite question, of course. The better question is what am I not  going to wear them with? Jeans... Dresses... Capris.... Maybe not yoga pants, but you get the idea. I can't think of an occasion that isn't made better by glittery Colts heels, just saying. My favorite place to wear them was, of course, Lucas Oil Stadium, where I had people asking to take pictures of my feet so they could show their friends. Once I got beyond hoping they weren't asking because they had weird foot fetish, it was kind of fun to get attention for something that people are so excited about!

Fast forward about a year. I decided that I probably needed Midwest Rampage shoes, as well. Once I got the official word that they would be playing again this season, I sent a message to G&G Lab to see what they could do with the team's logo. I finally ordered them in the middle of March, knowing I wanted them in time for the first game at the end of April. They arrived last week, and I couldn't be more excited. I sent jpg files of the team logo and a picture of the font I wanted, and it was recreated perfectly! I got to choose the heel height (for those of you who are not quite ready for 6in), open/closed toe, and obviously the size. I regularly wear an 8 1/2-9, and I have ordered a 9 both times, which fit really well. I'm glad I didn't go on the smaller end.
Photo sent to me by Glam and Glory before shipment
I'm pretty much obsessed with the orange glitter bottoms - who needs the red Louboutin bottom when you can have Rampage orange glitter?

If you're looking for custom shoes, for a wedding, sports team, super hero, or pretty much anything else, I highly recommend you check out Glam and Glory. From what I can tell she can do magic with just about anything, and if you're not into glitter (first of all, you're crazy), it looks as though rhinestones are an option, as well.

Happy shoe shopping!

Friday, April 1, 2016


It's no secret that I'm pretty proud that my husband plays on such an amazing football team, but I think this season preview, shared with me by the team, will show not only why you should be at the games this spring watching a team that promises to be a true play-off contender, but also why my whole family supports such a class-act organization. Thank you to not only the Midwest Rampage organization, but all the players who gave me quotes about the upcoming season!


The 2016 Midwest Rampage, like this year's slogan, enters a state of Metamorphosis with several major changes for their upcoming campaign.  First, after 5 seasons, the organization has relocated its base of operations from Webster City to Carlisle—what some consider a bold move considering the team’s inception began in North Central Iowa in 2009.  However, while last year's roster consisted of 39 players, only 5 were local to the area—which is not to say that the Rampage didn't lose a few longtime core veteran players with the move.  However, for 2016 season, there are currently 31 players on the squad of which 19 played last year.  So, it’s safe to say that both experience is abundant on this year’s team as well as growing support for the team in its new city.

The Rampage enters their third year of playing in the Southern Plains Football League (SPFL) and while the team has gone 15-5 and advanced to the SPFL semifinals the past two seasons, one major focus of their transmutation process is taking things to the next level by winning a championship. (Note:  The organization’s sole title game appearance occurred in 2011 when they played the Des Moines Blaze for the Midwest Football League championship.)  Furthermore, with the departure the 2014 and ‘15 SPFL champs the Southwest Huskerz, there is no league favorite and with the SPFL champion playing in the National Championship game in Salem (OR) on July 30th, the stakes are even bigger.  It is significant to mention that since joining the SPFL in 2014, the Rampage own the distinction of being the only team in the league to beat every other SPFL team and includes a 32-22 victory over the Huskerz in ’14 and a 23-20 win over perennial powerhouse the South Central Hawgs last season.  Nonetheless, the Rampage still have a lot to prove if they want to be considered the top team in the SPFL and that means playing bigger and better when it matters.

Offensively, while the team loses 2015 SPFL “Quarterback of the Year" Ben Jass to retirement along with the "Offensive Player" and "Wide Receiver of the Year” Gunnar Wyatt to another team, two new quarterbacks, Jake Hemann and Brandon Estabrook, bring both throwing and running skills to the table; just after one practice, the duo have proven that having two talented quarterbacks is better than one.  Running back Ross Haren, who has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 30 TDs the past two seasons is back along with Taylor Hackett who came on extremely strong towards the end of the ’15 season; both Hackett and Haren can play either tailback or in the slot.  Finally, newcomer, Antwan Bell, Sr. can be a bruising ball carrier at 5’10” and 250 lbs or a force at tight end.

An experienced receiving corps consisting of Jeromy Keehn, Taylar Karas, and Brad Staten highlights the aerial attack along with newcomers Derrick Jackson and Jesse Anderson.  The line—arguably the precious oil that makes the machine work—will be anchored by vets Josh Christensen, Axl Bronyzynski, and Mike McCrady, Jr. along with help from Todd Sauer and new recruits Jared Sunken, Steve Brown, and Lee Stubblefield.  On special teams, the 2015 SPFL "Kicker of the Year" Chuck "Thunderfoot" Tack returns as well as his invaluable counterpart, long snapper Peter "Skip" Reed as priceless assets; Tack’s 63 yard field goal last season versus the North Iowa Bucks early in the season solidified his place among one of the best kickers in the nation.

Defensively, the "Black Plague Defense" returns most of a unit that has been top-ranked in the SPFL the past two seasons and among other things, only allowed two rushing touchdowns last seeason.  On the line, Eric Walcheka will assume full-time duties at end after playing part-time the past two seasons where he racked up nearly 15 QB sacks and joining him on the other side will be newcomer Ely Emery, a former Division 1 recruit from Ottumwa who played at Iowa Western.  When duo hybrids Shon Osborn and Ben Scott aren’t playing linebacker, they also can also play up on the line as rush ends and are valuable veterans who always make big plays.  In the middle Sauer, McGrady, and Dillon Hart—who played in 2012 for the Rampage—will anchor the noseguard position vacated by an original Rampage vet and a 2015 finalist for “Best Defensive Lineman” Brian Miller.

An outstanding linebacker unit returns fully intact and features the 2015 SPFL "Defensive Player of the Year" John Elkin who led the league in tackles (83) and on the outside he will have outstanding counterparts and youth in Tyler Kibbee—a Finalist for the 2015 "Linebacker" and "DPOY"—as well as Scott, Osborn and newcomer Tanner Peterson.  Bell, Sr. can also play linebacker and so can Emery.  Finally, for the games he can play, phenomenon Joe Cason—who can virtually play anywhere from DE to LB to FS—will be the best athlete on either sideline when he's on the field.   

In the backfield, Tyler Mosbach and Herb Bolden are the best around and between them, have collected 29 interceptions since 2011.  Jeffrey West, another new player to the Rampage but one who comes with experience, will also greatly help along with Jackson and Hackett as fresh legs when needed especially with the departure of core staple and founding Rampage father Andy Sowle.

Coaching-wise, the Rampage have added much-needed staff in Co-Offensive Coordinators Kevin and Brian Bronyzynski; while Kevin's OL/DL expertise will greatly assist the game in the trenches, Brian's "Eye In The Sky" will help during games.  Back for his fifth year as the Defensive Coordinator is Marty Hart whose passion for the game is evident as well as the fact that over the course of his career, especially with the Rampage, he has led some of the best defenses in the Midwest.  Finally, Rampage head coach Matt Girdley who was the unanimous 2015 SPFL "Coach of the Year" is back, but Girdley will be the first to tell you that with more staff comes him relinquishing duties to those better qualified for the job.

The Rampage opens up the 2016 season at home at Carlisle High School on Saturday, April 30th at 4:00 pm.  Season tickets and packages are currently on sale at discounted prices or fans can pay $5 on game day (children 9 and under are FREE).  For more information, visit the Rampage’s official website:, ‘LIKE’ them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter @MidwestRampage.


Regular Season
Sat. 4/30 vs. SE MN Warhawks – 4:00 pm – Carlisle
Sat. 5/7 @ North Iowa Bucks – 4:00 pm – Rockwell
Sat. 5/14 vs. Med City Freeze  – 4:00 pm – Carlisle
Sat. 5/21 @ South Central Hawgs – 7:00 pm – Truman, MN
Sat. 5/28 @ Southwest MN Crusaders – 6:00 pm – Edgerton, MN
Sat. 6/4 vs. North Iowa Bucks – 4:00 pm – Carlisle
Sat. 6/11 @ Med City Freeze – 4:00 pm – Rochester, MN
Sat. 6/18 vs. SE MN Warhawks – 4:00 pm – Carlisle

SPFL Playoffs
Sat. 6/25 – 1st Round
Sat. 7/2 – Semifinals
Sat. 7/16 – All-Star Game & Championship
Sat. 7/30 – National Championship – Salem, Oregon

All Grown Up: John Elkin, Middle Linebacker

I am so excited to continue my "All Grown Up" mini-series, a look at adults who still compete and perform at high levels in their respective sports, with this interview with Midwest Rampage linebacker and Carlisle Middle School principal, John Elkin! While John and I worked in neighboring school district for a few years, it wasn't until husband joined the Rampage last year that I got a chance to get to know him. What I found out is that Elkin brings a special style of leadership, focused on passion, accountability, and teamwork, to both the field and to classrooms. Enjoy!

Give me your "football timeline"

The first time I ever played organized football was in 5th grade at Grant Wood Elementary school; it was a fun experience and I can still remember the one time I almost scored a TD as a QB but didn't.  I didn't play again until 8th grade and remember it wasn't until like the second game that I realized (after a teammate educated me) that the pants actually had pockets in them for the pads.  The next year as a freshmen in high school, I wasn't even going to play football--I actually slept in on the first day of practice and was like, "Ehh, I'm going to sleep in the last two weeks of the summer.  That was until my longtime friend Russell Elk came and got me at noon and was like, "You're playing, let's get going."  So, from 1986-1989 I was a Bettendorf Bulldog and that entire experience was very defining for me because BETT is a very special place to play--because of the program, coaches, and fans.  I had some great mentors in high school such as Dave Donohoo (who was a year older than me) and coaches John Lavelle and Randy Scott.  My experience in high school, especially after we won the '88 4A state championship (and by the end of my senior year, 36 straight games from '87-88), gave me the desire to play at the next level.

Collegiately I played at Drake University from 1990-94 where I was a 4 year letterman/3 year starter.  However, I would classify my college career as "up and down" because it seemed like I always had a nagging injury (e.g. foot, sports hernia) that while they didn't keep me off the field, I was never 100%.  Again, I had great mentors and fellow teammates at Drake such Kirk Nelson, Scott Sullivan, Dave Prymek, and Todd Sauer.  I owe a big thanks to Coach Joe Hadachek because he recruited me out of high school and not only took care of me at DU, but is still a presence in my life. My senior year was cut short as I missed games 2-8 when my fibula got broken for me (thanks Peck!) and while I was able to come back and play in the last two games (with my very last play being a tackle and forced fumble), my career felt unresolved (due to the injury my senior year).  
What then happened was that 13 years went by with a lot of dreams about still playing happened before I "unretired" in 2007, thanks mainly to Brian Miller who kept after me to "...have a great time playing semi-pro football."  So, from 2007-09 I played for the Iowa Eagles before a core group of us decided to form our own team in Webster City and from 2010-present I've been bleeding Black and Orange for the Midwest Rampage.  For sure, the last 9 years has been a blast and has had both up-and-downs ranging from the '07 season of going 0-11-1 to the '11 season when we went 7-4 and played the Des Moines Blaze for the MFA title...  plus you throw in the last two years of going 15-5 and two advancements to the SPFL Semifinals, and wow... time flies.

What is the best part about playing? 

Several things.  Of course, playing instead of watching or coaching is the best part, but for sure the friendships and fellow brothers I have made the last nine years--guys that I never would have known without putting on the pads again.  Also, the general locker room/team camaraderie that forms when you literally sweat, bleed, and have tears of joy and sorrow with guys committed to the same mission as you.  Finally, I would say there is NOTHING like standing on the sideline before a game, in full pads, when the National Anthem plays before the game... that's for sure the best part.

What has been the biggest life lesson you have taken away from football? 

The biggest life lesson I have taken away from football is that it's not about giving a hit that matters, but whether or not you can take a hit.  Life is like a fullback iso lead play:  It's all about stepping up in the gap and taking on the fullback that's coming for you.  And it matters not if you get knocked down, but if you get up.

Why, in such a high impact sport, do you keep playing now?

Quite simply, because not only do I love playing the game, but even at my age I still can.  I don't fish, hunt, or play golf, and while I do realize that I have less games in front of me than behind me, the words of my high school head coach, Merv Habenicht, still ring in my ears as one of the last things he ever said to me was:  "Talent is like a tank of gas: either you use it all up or it's eventually going to go bad, but one thing is for sure, once it's gone, it's gone."  So, to that end, I plan on using every last drop football that's in me. 

What made you want to run a team versus just play on one? 

Well, when the Rampage was formed (originally by myself, Miller, Andy Sowle, Chris McNiel, Jared Bell, and Jerry Mosley), I was voted as the Team President/CEO because as Miller said, "Nobody else is better suited to do it than you."  (Now, I'm not sure if Miller was being honest or just trying to put more things on me LOL).  My career as an English teacher, coach, and now administrator has brought out, taught me, and given me skill sets that have proven to be useful when it comes to running a team and include being organized, communicative, goal-driven, and team-focused. The Rampage played from 2010-12 before the Board of Directors decided to shut the team down, so there was no '13 season.  However, after a bunch of us played in a game for another team as mercenaries, the desire and interest to restart the Rampage existed so here we are... about to play in our second third act since 2010.