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Pain can't dull Passion

| Friday, April 20, 2007

Teresa Conn has suffered 14 broken bones, with injuries to her fingers, both ankles, a leg and a shoulder.

She has 12 pins holding bones in place from four major surgeries.

But at 5-foot-2, 97 pounds, she will be more than happy to risk further injury when she lines up at free safety Saturday for the Pittsburgh Passion women's football team in its opener at Cupples Stadium.

Not only is Conn a player for the Passion, but she also owns the team.

"I am more the exception than the rule, when it comes to injuries," said Conn, 43, a North Hills resident, who was formerly a health and physical education teacher at General McLane High School in Edinboro. "We all have had some sort of injury. But I know my body is wearing down. My whole right side is made of metal, but I can't walk away. I want to squeak out a few more years. I know I am in a window, and it's a small one, that is closing."

She hopes it doesn't close this season.

The Passion kick off their fifth season Saturday, when they host the Cleveland Fusion at 7 p.m. at Cupples Stadium.

Conn is among the few players who have been with the team from the beginning. Most stay only two seasons.

"Playing football requires lots of practice, traveling, and is physically demanding," Conn said. "These women are trying to balance full-time jobs, children, husbands and football. They get home at ridiculous hours and spend a lot of their free time trying to promote our team and our sport. But they share a bond that is what keeps bringing them back."

Conn has compiled medical bills and taken several trips to the hospital, but once it is time to put on the uniform, she can't wait.

" 'T Conn' is the heart and soul of this team," said quarterback Lisa Horton, also one of the originals. "She sets the tone for everything we do. She is a role model and an amazing lady. We are fortunate to have her as our leader."

Conn joined the Passion when she lived in Erie and made the two-and-a-half-hour trip for practice and games.

"There was an Erie team, too, but I had already committed to Pittsburgh and had made friends here," she said. "This is more than a team to me and to these players. We have attended each others' weddings and been there for funerals and other life events. We have players from age 18 to 45 who are from different backgrounds but who have a common thread, and that thread is football. When one of us falls, the others make sure to help her up. Some sports teams are cut-throat but we want everyone to get a chance to play."

Conn said her principles are based on the importance of being part of a team and how that carries over into real life. Being part of a team teaches dedication and how to sacrifice for teammates, she said. It also teaches women they can play full-contact football no matter their size.

When coach Ron Coder first saw Conn, he was skeptical that she could play.

"But then I saw how aggressive she was on the field," he said. "She is tough. If she was taller and 30 pounds heavier, she could really hurt some people. Teresa is committed to this team. She wants to build a team of character. That is first in her book and mine, too."

Additional Information:

Saturday's game

Cleveland (0-0) vs. Passion (0-0)

When, where: 7 p.m. -- Cupples Stadium, South Side

Radio: Fox Sports Radio 970 AM

Tickets: $12 for adults; $8 for military (with ID) and seniors (62 and older); $5 for children

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