Charm's Rypien aims to use LFL 'cover girl' status as route to bigger fame

Angela Rypien is not bashful about her ambitions.

That shouldn't be surprising considering her primary job responsibility is, ahem, tossing footballs around in her underwear in front of thousands of fans.

She wants to be the best quarterback in lingerie football. She wants to pose in magazines ranging from Sports Illustrated to Vogue. She wants to be a reality TV star and a global icon.

But right now, the 22-year-old has to settle for being the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Charm and the most famous player in the Legends Football League. When not throwing passes for the Charm, Rypien uses the LFL platform, along with her looks and her famous last name, to rack up frequent flyer miles, model for magazine covers and pull in paychecks to appear at local events.

"It is literally a dream come true," she said.

There is no questioning her prominence off the field, but when she is on it, can she actually play?

"A lot of people see me as the cover girl, the face of the league," Rypien said. "People think that because of my dad, that's the only reason that I play. Or people think that I'm in it for the wrong reasons. But I'm probably one of the hardest-working players in the league."

Rypien was flipping through channels with her father, former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, two years ago when the LFL, which was then called the Lingerie Football League, popped up onto his television screen in Spokane, Wash. A self-proclaimed "girly girl" who attended beauty school and was more infatuated with fashion than sports, Rypien had never played organized football, unless you count games at family barbecues.

"I was more interested in the guys playing in high school than playing it myself," she said, laughing.

Still, she was fascinated by the passion of the players and decided to look into the league. She joined the Seattle Mist, becoming the topic of national sports blog fodder. After one season there, she moved to Maryland to play for the Charm, knowing that her surname still carried a lot weight in this football-crazed region.

Her father, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, at first had reservations about his daughter trotting around on artificial turf in a sports bra and booty shorts. But after attending many of her home games and seeing how seriously she took the sport, he came around.

"Once I started looking at pictures of their gear and how they are dressed, as a father you are a little bit concerned," he said. "But the league has given women something to dream about, something they weren't able to do 20 years ago. It's a great opportunity for these young ladies."

While some have suggested that her last name and her looks are the main reasons that Rypien plays in the LFL, teammates insist she is making strides as a quarterback for the Charm (1-1), a third-year team that hosts the Cleveland Crush at 1st Mariner Arena on Friday night.

"She's 22. She's still going to grow," said Kelly Campbell, a team captain and a three-year Charm veteran. "Seeing what she was when she came out here from Seattle and seeing where she is at now, it's totally different."

Mark Rypien said that "even when we threw it in the backyard, she could always chuck it." But he noted that with the help of a passing instructor, she has improved her drop-backs and throwing mechanics.

"She doesn't just want to be the face of the league," her father said. "She wants to be that player that matches the face."

With her arm strength, Angela Rypien's passes can cover much of the 50-yard field; one of her passes knocked the wind out of a teammate before a 20-19 win over the visiting Philadelphia Passion on June 8.

"She's got an arm on her," first-year player Tiana Mesta said. "Sometimes, when I'm running shorter routes, I have to watch out. I don't have time for messing up this pretty face."

But Rypien has thrown just 19 pass attempts in two games, completing 10 for 115 yards and the touchdown. She has thrown three interceptions.

While Rypien is still trying to find her way under center, she is making the most of her renown off the field.

She stuck a pose on the cover of the June 2013 issue of FHM Indonesia — their racy inside spread has the headline "Daddy's Little Girl" — and she said she has signed on to do sports modeling for Under Armour. She has partnerships with companies such as EyeBlack and TheraPearl. And she makes paid appearances at nightclubs and events.

Players aren't paid by the league, so football is a second job for most of these women, whose primary professions range from the medical field to security. But Rypien said she earns enough through her off-the-field endeavors to support herself and her 4-year-old daughter, Malayah, while also satisfying her addiction to sneaker shopping. She acknowledges that these opportunities probably wouldn't exist if not for the LFL platform.

"When you figure out the business side of the LFL and just football in general, it opens up so many different avenues and revenues for you," said Rypien, talking with the big hands that allow her to grip the football. "It's been really fortunate that since I've come out here I've been able to do this full time. Because I don't see myself playing 15 years in the league."

But will the LFL still be around a decade from now?

It's too early to tell, though owner Mitchell Mortaza is optimistic. The LFL has a league in Canada and another set to begin play in Australia. Asia might be the next frontier as he looks to expand overseas. He claims changing the name of the league from the Lingerie Football League was a necessary step that has led to more interest from advertisers and sports broadcasting companies.

Mortaza wouldn't provide home attendance figures for the Charm, but he said they are up 20 percent from last year, and he believes the Baltimore market "has tremendous upside potential."

Asked whether the league has staying power, Rypien responded: "Absolutely. I mean, hopefully."

Her goal is to play well enough for the Charm to one day earn "a huge contract" to go play in Australia, she said. She hopes that in time she will be recognized as "more of a global icon." And she thinks she is "supposed to be on TV," so he has dreams of starring on a reality show, starting with "The Bachelorette."

But if her career were to wash out or if the LFL were to close up shop, Rypien feels she has "absolutely" set herself up for life after lingerie football, whatever that may be.

"Some girls come in and say they just want to play football," she said. "Really? That's it?"

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