EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After a finishing up her collegiate basketball career at the University of New Mexico (2014-2018), Laneah Bryan still had that itch to compete even after her basketball playing days were over.
After graduating college, Bryan found a way to address that need to compete, but it wasn’t through the sport of basketball. Instead, Bryan started playing flag football.
“I didn’t even know it existed, but it’s a huge sport now and it’s growing every day,” Bryan said. “I never would have dreamed this or imagined it, but I know that younger me is happy now.”
After graduating college, the Franklin High School grad returned to El Paso. Bryan went from playing in local Sunday flag football leagues to playing at the highest level in the United States.
Recently, Bryan was one of 12 players on the USA Football Women’s Flag National Team that competed at the 2023 IFAF Americas Continental Flag Football Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina in July.
The 2023 IFAF Americas Continental Flag Football Championship pitted USA Football’s U.S. Men’s and Women’s Flag National Teams against the top men’s and women’s teams from North and South America.
“Being able to walk out in the opening ceremony with the U.S. national team and having ‘USA’ across your chest, the feeling was unreal.” Bryan said.
Bryan was indispensable for the success of the team. Her ball hawking skills as a defensive back dominated the tournament. Bryan totaled 18 flag pulls, 16 passes defended and pulled down seven interceptions, including one in the team’s gold medal match win against Mexico, as the women’s team finished the week with a 6-0 record.
“That was the most fun game I’ve ever played in,” Bryan said. “I’ve played college basketball, which was an amazing opportunity, but playing against Mexico in that championship game, the atmosphere was insane.”
Now, Bryan hopes her story of going from a bucket getter to a gold medal winner in a sport she never expected to play at a high level serves as inspiration to the next generation of ballers.
“When I was a little girl, I would’ve loved the opportunity to play flag football, but at the time is just wasn’t there,” Bryan said. “Being able to lay that foundation for future girls growing up that there is an opportunity to play football.”