Gridiron Granny tackles fame

These days she keeps her eyes peeled for two things -- AARP discounts and opposing ball carriers who have gotten past her defensive line.

She'll grab them both, the only difference being, she'll use one and try to abuse the other.

That's life when you're Gridiron Granny.

Her real name is Charlotte Chambers. She's a 70-year-old retired school teacher with five children, five grandchildren and four great grandkids. She's also a pro football player, a backup free safety for the Orlando Starz of the Independent Women's Football League (IWFL). Founded in 2000, the IWFL -- which has 21 teams in the U.S. and Canada -- is one of four pro football leagues for women.

Yet, you can be sure there is no one playing the game quite like Chambers. She's more than three times as old as Ayesha Jones, the Starz' 22-year-old strong safety who plays next to her. Able to use her American Association of Retired People card for 20 years already, Chambers is considered the oldest active pro football player in the world and that's created quite a stir.


Earlier this month after a game in Miami, she was mobbed by the fans who treated her like a rock star. Last week, two television crews from Japan flew to Florida to record her every move. "The wildest was last Sunday in church," Chambers said by phone. "I sing in the choir at the Washington Shores' Tabernacle CME (Christian, Methodist, Episcopal) Church and when the pastor got in front of the congregation, he said he had an announcement to make. He said, 'I want to make you aware of someone special today. You know her as Sister Chambers, but everybody else is getting to know her as Gridiron Granny.' Well, I could have died. I wanted to hide."

She can forget about that. These days, it's nothing but Go Granny Go when it comes to her football and fame.

Tuesday, she was a guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Wednesday it was CBS' "The Early Show." Now HBO wants her. So does Regis and especially sex-and-skewer host, Howard Stern.

Chambers says she survived her premature birth in a shotgun shack in Moultrie, Ga. because a protective grandmother placed her on a pillow near the pot belly stove to keep her warm. She's been tough enough that though she married and had her first child when she was an 11th grader in high school, she went on to study at Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach, later got her degree at the University of Hartford and then taught school 35 years in Connecticut.

She's been tough enough to endure an abusive husband, whom she finally fled, overcome breast cancer in the late 1980s and, for the past two seasons, knock heads two nights a week in practice and in Saturday games with the Starz.

Chambers, who plays about eight minutes a game, went through all of last season without any media notice. "Nobody said squat then and that's just how I liked it," she said. "I didn't do this as a publicity stunt. I just wanted to play football."

Source: Cox News Service

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