Allison Cahill ’03 earned her place in the record books in four years with the Princeton women’s basketball team, scoring more than 1,000 points as one of the best 3-point shooters in program history. But Cahill’s athletic career since graduation has been even more remarkable: After finishing her degree in history, she took up tackle football, and 16 years later, she’s going strong as the starting quarterback of the Boston Renegades, the defending Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) champions.
Cahill is setting new standards for success and longevity in women’s football. With the Renegades and their precursor, the Boston Militia, she has won four championships (three in the WFA and one in the Independent Women’s Football League). In 2016 she became the first quarterback to win 100 games in women’s leagues. This year she has completed 71 percent of her pass attempts, throwing for 12 touchdowns and one interception.
Cahill traces her love of football back to childhood. “I have actually wanted to be a football player since I was 4 years old,” she said. “My dad exposed me to the game pretty early. I had two older brothers and always played in the neighborhood and at recess.”
She played flag football in middle school as the first girl in her town’s league, but as her teammates made the transition to high school, she shifted her focus to basketball.
Cahill hadn’t given much thought to playing football until late in her Princeton years, when a roommate told her about a women’s team that was holding tryouts in Providence, R.I. Cahill made the trip and made the team — but it took some time to build her skills as a quarterback. “My first pass attempt was an interception,” she said with a laugh. “It was definitely symbolic of the first few years of my career.”
While Cahill has spent her whole career with teams based in the Boston area, the team names and league names have changed — and the quality of play, she said, has improved significantly, thanks to professional coaching and more continuity from year to year. Midway through their eight-game 2019 season, the Renegades are a perfect 4-0.
Cahill, a personal trainer in her day job, has found football to be both physically demanding and “highly intellectual.” She takes pride in her training — at 5-feet-5-inches tall, she is one of the smaller players on the Renegades’ roster.
“I’ve always had to prepare myself to be a little bit of an underdog and have a certain toughness and drive to compete against people who are bigger and stronger than me, whether it was basketball or football,” she said. She’s quick to add that she hasn’t done it alone: “I’ve had a great offensive line that kept me well-protected all these years.”