By 1st Lt. Emerson Marcus, 152nd Airlift Wing
/ Published July 15, 2021
Airman 1st Class Jasmine Plummer plays running back during a Nevada Storm football game during the 2019 season. This year, Plummer and the Reno-based football team of the Women’s Football Alliance are headed to Division II Championship game against the Detroit Dark Angels on July 23 at the Pro Football Hall Fame in Canton, Ohio. Photo courtesy Nevada storm website.
Airman 1st Class Jasmine Plummer is reserved and shy among her peers in the Nevada Air Guard. She’s been that way her entire life.
But there is nothing reserved or shy about her play on the football field.
Her gridiron prowess already earned her legendary status with a Hollywood film, “The Longshots,” about her journey as an 11-year-old girl in 2003 becoming the first female quarterback to lead a team to the Pop Warner Super Bowl. Released in 2008, the movie is based on her memorable Pop Warner season with actress Keke Palmer playing Plummer and Ice Cube playing her football mentor. That year, ESPN The Magazine featured her in an article headlined “The Gridiron Girl.”
After more than a decade hiatus from football, Plummer, now 28, has reunited with the game she loves and was named last month Women’s Football Alliance Division II MVP. Plummer’s team, the Reno-based Nevada Storm, claimed the Division II national championship July 23 beating the Detroit Dark Angels, 42-18, at the Pro Football Hall Fame in Canton, Ohio. The championship game capped off a dominant season with the Storm finishing 9-0 overall.
Plummer led all Division II rushers during the regular season in yards (814), touchdowns (15), yards per carry (15.5) and tied for the longest run of the season (95 yards), according to the WFA website.
“I feel like this is what I am supposed to be playing,” Plummer, who also played cornerback on defense, said. “I’m glad there was an opportunity for me to do that. I just like hitting people and playing football.”
Her uncle, Fred Johnson, Sr., was one of the first people to notice Plummer’s ability playing backyard football in her hometown of Harvey, Illinois, just south of Chicago.
“She was playing football with some guys at a park down the street from her house and she injured her knee,” Johnson said. “A boy brought her home, holding her in his arms. She was about 9. This guy was much older, much bigger. My sister couldn’t believe it. She thought these much older boys shouldn’t be playing football with her baby. I told my sister she loves the game, but she should be playing in a more organized environment.”
Johnson became her coach in Pop Warner at the Mighty-Mite level. He would later be played by Ice Cube in the movie “The Longshots.” The movie depicts Plummer as a “girlie girl” who eventually plays football, Johnson said, but that was never the case in real life.
“She always loved football,” he said.
That love of the game became her primary focus as she entered the Junior Pee Wee level of Pop Warner. At quarterback, Plummer led the Harvey Colts to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in 2003 in Orlando, Florida. She was the first female quarterback in the national tournament’s 61-year history, ESPN reported.
“She was shy,” Johnson said. “We would have to prep her for interviews. She didn’t want to go to them. That was Jasmine. She was the sweetest, cutest little girl. But then there is someone I like to call Jazzy Lady. That’s her alter ego. Once she has that ball, running with the ball, it’s like a stallion running loose through a fence.”
Johnson recalled when Plummer played quarterback against one of the leading teams in the league. Often in Pop Warner, players are asked to keep their helmets on even after the game. The opposing coach asked if she could remove her helmet.
“They wanted to make sure we didn’t switch her and put some other kid in,” Johnson said. “She stood there with her dirty uniform, took off her helmet and gave that Jasmine smile. The coach said, ‘You’re the athlete that every dad wants.’”
Plummer stopped playing football as a teenager and transitioned to basketball.
“There aren’t a lot of options to play football for teenage girls,” she said. “I thought I had a chance to play sports for a longer period of time if I started with basketball.”
She also wrestled and regularly pinned her mostly male competition.
Eventually, basketball brought her out west, where she played point guard at Feather River Community College in Quincy, California.
“I didn’t know it was so mountainous. I envisioned a lot of beaches, like we all think about California. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll go there.’ I was wrong,” Plummer said with a laugh.
But it worked out for Plummer. That’s where she met wife, Nejae Jackson, who also played basketball at Feather River. Today, they have two children and live in Carson City. Her mother, Cassandra Johnson, also moved from Illinois to Reno to be close to her daughter.
Plummer left Quincy to continue her education at the University of Nevada, Reno. She also held a job at Tesla, but needed to find a way to pay for college. To do so, in 2018, she joined the Nevada Air Guard as an information technology specialist in the 152nd Communications Flight. The Nevada Guard’s tuition waiver provided her a chance to pay for her classes and continue to work.
“She is a real self-starter and you can tell that comes from her sports background,” said Maj. Greg Green, commander, 152nd Communications Flight. “She has an amazing work ethic.”
‘Powerful, quick and fast like them’
Also in 2018, she started attending practice with the Nevada Storm, originally created in Reno in 2010. With Plummer in the offensive backfield, the Storm won the Division III championship in 2019. The league moved the Storm to Division II in 2020, but they did not compete because of the pandemic. If the Storm wins next week, they will become the first WFA team in history to win back-to-back titles after jumping divisions.
The most recent championship win last month against the Detroit Dark Angels seemed to look like the Storm’s toughest test. The Dark Angels posted shutouts in six of their eight games this season. Both teams placed first and second in points per game and points allowed per game during the regular season. The Nevada Storm scored 39.7 points per game and allowed 6.9 points per game; the Dark Angels scored 36.1 per game and allowed 7.7, according to the WFA website. But the final score (42-18) further highlighted just how dominant the Storm was during the team’s 2021 run.
Plummer has her eyes set on playing in the new Women’s Football League Association, which pledges to become the first professional women’s football league and pay players. The league has been in contact with Plummer, but its start date for its inaugural season was postponed to 2022 because of the pandemic.
“Hopefully, we will have more information soon,” she said. “I am excited about it.”
Plummer says she prefers running back over quarterback—the position she played in Pop Warner — because it provides more chances to touch the ball in a league more focused on running. When asked if there was a running back she modeled herself after, whether male or female, Plummer said Alvin Kamara, of the New Orleans Saints.
“I also like Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch,” Plummer said of the longtime Seattle Seahawks running back. “I’m a similar kind of runner. I think I’m powerful, quick and fast like them.”