It was a big day for Thaddeus Randle, one of the country's top high school defensive tackle prospects, when Nebraska coach Bo Pelini visited his Galena Park, Texas, home in January. But the boy's mother, Julia (Sunshine) Long, almost missed it. Long, 37, had a tryout at defensive tackle for the Houston Energy of the full-tackle Independent Women's Football League, which was founded in 2000. She rushed through the workout and made it in time to meet Pelini. Thaddeus says now, "It was a pretty good day."
A few weeks later the 6'1", 255-pound North Shore High standout signed with Nebraska. Around that time the 5'9", 195-pound Long, a certified medical assistant, learned she had won a job with the Energy. Long has wanted to play football since she was little; her son's success spurred her to try out. Mother and son break down her game film together; Thaddeus says she needs to work on creating separation and finishing every play.
Most important, the game has brought the two closer. Says Thaddeus, who leaves for Lincoln after he graduates later this month, "Mom started really getting into my life this year." To which Long answers, "He came to my first game, in the pouring rain. It brings tears to your eyes."