The Canadian Press: U of M Bison Reina Iizuka attempting to become 1st female to play U Sports football
Reina Iizuka is Canadian university football’s best-kept secret.
The 5-foot-7, 160-pound defensive back is entering her third year at the University of Manitoba, having been a red-shirted player on the Bisons in 2018.
Red-shirted players, who practise but do not dress for games, usually aren’t in the spotlight.
However, it’s a different story for the 19-year-old Iizuka, who is believed to be the first woman to appear on a U Sports football roster (the national sport governing body of university sport in Canada, formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport, CIS).
The well-spoken native of Mississauga, Ont., applied to Manitoba in 2017 but wasn’t on the roster her first year, working out with the team while she recovered from a knee injury.
Iizuka sees herself as a football player first, but understands how others can consider her a trailblazer and pioneer in her chosen sport.
“I’m someone who plays the game but I also realize with that will be responsibility,” she said during a telephone interview. “I’m just a player but at the same time I’m that [pioneer] as well.
“It’s something I aspire to be. I don’t think I’m mentally there yet, but I’m working hard to become that.”
Iizuka will be part of the CFL contingent participating in the NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum this week in Indianapolis.