Marine Veteran, Cancer-Combatant, and all-around S(hero)

Series Created by Sarah Wolfer – Seattle Majestics Player

The Seattle Majestics Football team launched a series on March 8th to highlight the many impressive women who make up the team. The Seattle Majestics players and coaches come from all walks of life with varying backgrounds and experiences who are unified by one common goal – Winning the IX Cup in Denver, Colorado this summer.

This #FootballFriday we are celebrating a true hero and role-model for girls and women everywhere – Nicole “Tank” Hawkins-Verdin. As a Marine Veteran, Tank knows what it means to be a powerful woman – and now she is bringing her inspiring attitude to the football field to conquer even more barriers. Tank is battling terminal cancer and still finds the time and energy to give her all both on and off the football field every single day. In addition to all that, Tank drives 5+ hours each direction to make it to practices and games with the Majestics because she is 100% committed to bringing this team to the Championship game in Denver. We hope you are prepared to laugh, cry, and be inspired by the words of wisdom by #74, Nicole “Tank” Hawkins-Verdin.

Tell us about yourself and your journey to become a tackle football player with the Seattle Majestics. How did you get started playing football?

My name is Nicole Hawkins-Verdin but those who know me call me Tank. I live in Eugene, Oregon which is also where I grew up. As a kid I played basketball and soccer even though I’d always wanted to play football.  Unfortunately as a female that wasn’t allowed.

When I was finally old enough, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I picked the Marines because I was told as a female I wouldn’t hack it. I took that as a challenge and served 5 years as a Military Police Officer.

I struggled after my enlistment was over and  felt that I couldn’t find that bond that I’d had in the service here in the civilian world.

Why the Seattle Majestics and the WNFC?

Well, come 2017 I heard word of a women’s tackle football team here in Eugene and of course I had to check it out! I loved it!

And then the summer of 2018 shattered my world.

I was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer, called polycythemia vera. I felt as though my new hobby had just been snatched from me.

However, about a month later, I was contacted by Ashley Young (a player with the Majestics) who asked me to come tryout for the team. I explained the recent news and asked for some time to think about it. I talked with my partner Jason who encouraged me to speak with the Majestics Head Coach – Scott McCarron.

At the same time this was happening, I caught wind that a friend from my former team (Allie Campbell) was also going to the meet and greet and so we made the long drive up to Seattle from Eugene together.

I told Scott my situation, doubting that anyone would take on the risk but I’ll never forget his words; “I’m not going to stop you from playing”.

I left the meeting a bit shocked, but also very encouraged.

Allie Campbell and I returned to Washington for tryouts and It felt good to be back on the field. After a couple of months of waiting I was at work on my lunch and Allie called and excitedly told me “You’re on the roster!! We’re both on the roster!!” I was in utter shock.

Fast forward to now – Allie, Jason, my service dog Tyr, and I have made weekly trips from Eugene, OR to Kent, WA to practice, play games, and connect with our team. I couldn’t be more grateful for this team and those who coach and play for the Majestics. I feel that I have finally found a bond that has helped me become better, both as an individual and as a teammate.

As part of the Women’s National Football Conference, the Seattle Majestics are now sponsored by Adidas through the “She Breaks Barriers” campaign. What do you feel are the biggest barriers facing women in sports today?

In this world we are faced with many barriers, and when it comes to sports, we as women are told we are not equal to our male counterparts.

We have been told our whole lives that women can’t play football, but as you can see, here we are. We play the same game with the same rules and we hit HARD.

Having our league, the WNFC, sponsored by large brand names like Adidas and Riddell just shows there is a growing interest in what we are doing and that we will not be stopped.

What do you see as your role in changing that?

I simply want to show other women that they too can break down those barriers.

You can come from any walk of life and play this sport.

I’m a big tomboy, but you don’t have to be one to play. You can be anything and everything you want to be!

I have teammates that are moms, single parents, and even models!

I feel that with my diagnoses I also have a unique opportunity. I want to use it to show others that if you stay strong and believe in yourself, even when you’re faced with disabilities or diagnoses, that you can still follow your dreams. Don’t let it stop you from doing what you love.

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give girls growing up today?

My advice is simple; be who you want to be.

There will always be naysayers and haters wherever you turn. Don’t let them or any barriers you face stop you from achieving your goals.  

Prove them wrong.

And prove yourself wrong if and when you’re doubting in your own abilities.

Who is your (s)hero and how did/ does she inspire you?

OJ Jenkins – When I heard about her and the WNFC it only inspired me further.

She is providing women the opportunity to shine and play football at an elite level. She has given us a voice, a platform, and a path to show the world what women of all walks of life can do.

If you want to see “Tank” and the Seattle Majestics in action, you’re in luck! The WNFC recently joined forces with USCREEN and announced “WNFCTV.” Check out more information and watch the games live HERE

 

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