Kelly Colobella is known for her strength and fitness. She’s played in women’s semi-professional (full tackle) American football since 2000. In that time Kelly has become a key team member of Utah Falconz, who play in the US National League. She’s played a part in contending for the National Championship four times, winning twice.
The tough tackling Defensive Line has also played Offensive Line and Linebacker has been picked as ‘All American’. She was also invited to play in the first ever Women’s Football Hall Of Fame game. She’s also known as an accomplished powerlifter, and has enjoyed competing in women’s strongman. This led to her focussing on cutting weight to move to a more competitive category below her heavyweight (73-84kg) division.
While her lifting has taken a back seat to her playing, it’s worth remembering that in 2014 she broke the Utah State records for squat and bench press. She has benched 185 lb (84 kg), squatted 290 lb (131.5kg) and deadlifted 345 lb (156.5kg) – in the 82.5-90kg category.
Kelly’s been vegan for many years as a result of thought processes that started as a child. “My grandparents owned a farm. I loved wandering the field and making friends with the animals” she tells Great Vegan Athletes. “One morning (maybe jokingly, maybe not) I was informed I was eating a pig (Squiggly) that I had grown to love. That moment set an awareness in me that manifested later in life to my compassionate lifestyle. I went vegetarian at 12 years old, and later as I learned that going vegan was the next logical step I took it. I stopped eating all dairy at once and have never gone back.”
- Leading American Footballer
- 2 x National Championship winner
- Powerlifting state record breaker
The move to full veganism was in 1994 when vegan products were much more limited, and Kelly has remained committed to veganism all this time.
“I am an ethical vegan, and would never think to compromise on that” she says. “There are vegan options easily accessible, there’s really no need to make concessions on my lifestyle.”
“I’ve been vegan longer than I have not been vegan so I have built ALL of my strength and speed as an athlete being vegan.“
Kelly makes her own seitan and eats a lot of Gardein products tofu, and various veggies. It fuels a demanding lifestyle that includes several hours in the gym each day.
“I’m currently lifting four times a week (training ‘big three’ lifts and accessories even though I’m not currently competing in lifting). I also add in kettlebells at the end of each lifting session. I do boxing/ kickboxing 3-4 times a week, as well as as much rock climbing and yoga as I can fit. When football season gets closer this will involve lighter lifting, sprints, and more yoga.”
The results of training as a vegan have been excellent. However, Kelly has sometimes found that some of the information she’s been given is unreliable and negative regarding her veganism.
“A powerlifting coach told me I needed 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight and that I would not be able to get that as a vegan. This is really outdated weightlifter mentality in my opinion. Football coaches like to make jokes at the expense of my lifestyle but it’s not something that ever gets to me.”
She’s also found that her good example has attracted interest.
“I know what my body needs and I have actually had a lot of trainers and coaches come around and try veganism because they see my performance and recovery are great. American football is generally a sport people associate with a very meat-heavy lifestyle and diet. I am proud to be an example of how a healthy vegan can perform on the field.”
Kelly has taken a great deal of pleasure from her sport, and is also keen to promote women’s sport and make them more available,
“A lot of female athletes are overlooked, and underappreciated” she says. “Our sports don’t get media attention, corporate sponsorship, and are not taken seriously in general. I would love to be a part of helping the perceptions about women’s sports change, and grow in popularity.”
She also helps people will consider eating vegan.
“I think a lot of people overthink nutrition when it comes to veganism and sports. I get questions about this all the time and my best advice is to listen to your body when it comes to veganism. Your body knows *exactly* what it needs and it will tell you. I’ve been vegan longer than I have not been vegan so I have built ALL of my strength and speed as an athlete being vegan.
“People psych themselves out of eating vegan with many excuses but when it comes down to it, it’s just another discipline in your athletic career. If you have the mental toughness to work at your sport, you can certainly have the discipline to eat plants.”