Football-playing Femme


By Wendy Soderburg '82

Published Jun 27, 2006 1:19 PM

What's your fantasy?
Winning the lottery?
Becoming the next American Idol?
Writing the next The Da Vinci Code?

For Sarah Schwartz '99, the fantasy was a lot easier to obtain — and a lot more fun, to boot. The slim blonde normally runs an AT&T call center for business customers, but in June, she found herself sweating it out on the football field at the Rose Bowl with about 40 other Bruins, all men. They were participants in UCLA's first "Bruin Flashback Football: A Fantasy Football Camp for Grown-up Kids," which, for a fee of $1,500–$3,500, allowed them to live the life of a UCLA football player, coach or team owner for three glorious days.

VIDEO: Great Catch! (Quicktime)

"I am happy to report that I had an amazing time and I did not hurt myself!" says Schwartz, a staunch supporter of UCLA Athletics and a season ticket holder to both football and basketball. "I do have a not-so-secret fantasy of being a football player. I love UCLA, love UCLA football, and really like football in general. So it seemed like the perfect way to spend three days."

Freeman McNeil, Sarah Schwartz,
and Dad

Upon their arrival at the Acosta Center on June 8, Schwartz and her fellow campmates were greeted by Head Coach Karl Dorrell and his entire staff. Over the next few days, the coaches proceeded to treat the "players" as if they were actual UCLA student-athletes, encouraging them when they did well and, when they needed it, yelling at them during the drills ("No walking on the green!"). Several former UCLA football players, including James Washington, Mike Sherrard, Tom Ramsey, Mike Lodish, Billy Kilmer and Freeman McNeil, were on hand to dispense plenty of advice.

VIDEO: Drill (Quicktime)

The three days of workouts, drills and studying plays culminated with actual football games (one-hand touch) at the Rose Bowl, in which the players wore authentic team jerseys emblazoned with their names and favorite numbers (Schwartz's choice: Cade McNown's No. 18). Her team lost in the playoffs, but it hardly mattered.

"I dropped some passes, but I also caught a lot. I felt that I really held my own," says the fledgling tailback. "Our team definitely bonded."

VIDEO: Coaching (Quicktime)

But it was the action off the field that Schwartz liked best. "My favorite part was access to the coaching staff and getting insights into the program," she says. "I can't say enough positive things about the coaching staff. They spent a ton of time with us, wholeheartedly coaching and pushing us. They had meals with us and treated us like a real team, almost. Talking about their experiences, where they've coached, what it's like working with the players — it was just really awesome."