Same receiving skills, new playing field
Rachel Wojdowski, a Bethel Park and NYU grad, traded professional basketball in Europe for pro football back home in Pittsburgh.
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There was a time when the passes Rachel Wojdowski received were on the basketball court, not a football field.
Wojdowski, who plays wide receiver and cornerback for the Passion women's professional team, never thought she'd be playing football.
Wojdowski played basketball at Bethel Park High School and New York University, where she averaged a little more than 17 and 16 points.
She then played professional basketball in Europe in five countries -- The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belgium -- over five years.
The experience, she said, allowed her to immerse herself in different cultures while she was "being paid to travel."
After returning home, she received a job offer from Duquesne University, where she had first played college basketball before transferring to NYU. Her day job is director of basketball operations for the Duquesne women's basketball team.
Her other position is with the Passion, and she has caught 10 touchdowns this season.
Wojdowski and her teammates are in the Women's Football Alliance playoffs. They play a second-round game against the DC Divas at 6 p.m. today in Landover, Md..
The Passion shut out the Detroit Dark Angels, 34-0, in the first round last week.
There are two more rounds of the playoffs after this week, and the two surviving teams will square off Aug. 4 in the WFA championship game at Heinz Field.
Wojdowski started playing for the Passion last season after fellow Duquesne employee, athletic trainer Amanda Haeg, introduced her to the team. Haeg is a Passion quarterback and wide receiver.
"She told me I should try it out and I was like 'Are you crazy?' " said Wojdowski, who was coming off back surgery in 2008.
"So I said no at first, but eventually I met some of the other girls and I played some flag football in the winter ... I kind of got my arm twisted into it," she said, laughing.
"I saw her every day," Haeg recalled. "I dropped a few hints here and there. She's a phenomenal athlete; you can't miss that."
Even as a person who said "basketball has my heart," Wojdowski took to football quickly -- for the most part.
"As a basketball person, I don't like to get touched much," she said.
On offense, she rarely does. Of her 26 receptions this season, 10 have been touchdowns.
On defense, she racked up 13 tackles and a forced fumble.
"Competing at all the different levels I did, I brought over how I play and think to the Passion," Wojdowski said.
Even her basketball colleagues at Duquesne are adjusting to her two-sport success.
Wojdowski said an administrative assistant has her poster up on her wall, and that some of her fellow coaches wait for her to come in Monday mornings to joke about how many bruises she has.
Wojdowski can expect plenty of bruises playing against the rival Divas tonight. This will be the third time the two teams have matched up this season after splitting two games in the regular season.
Another win would be a step toward the big game at Heinz Field.
"Playing in the championship game -- that's why you play," Wojdowski said. "Being in Heinz Field, being from Pittsburgh, that would be a dream come true."
First Published June 30, 2012 12:21 am