18-Year-Old Female Football Player Makes History with Athletic Scholarship

Becca Longo made recently made history when she became the first woman to earn a football scholarship to a NCAA Division II or higher school. About a dozen women have played college football, but none have done so on an athletic scholarship until Longo.

Longo was stunned to hear her high school football coach, Gerald Todd, announce this information at the signing ceremony at her Arizona high school. Until then, Longo had no idea she was making history.

“I didn’t know that until today,” said the 18-year-old. “I’m still in shock from it. I’m just amazed.”

Several weeks ago, Longo signed with Adams State in Colorado where she’ll be a kicker for the Division II school and play on its basketball team.

Longo said she was very emotional when she learned of the scholarship offer.

“I was just so grateful that somebody believed in me and that I could actually do it,” she said.

While she looked up to other women who have played football, Longo didn’t start playing competitively herself until high school. She was the junior varsity kicker at her high school in 2014, but was forced to sit out her junior year because she transferred schools. After suffering a back injury, doctors told her she’d never play again but she was back for the 2016 season at her new high school.

“It was just like recruiting any other athlete,” said Timm Rosenbach, the coach for Adams State. “To me, there is no doubt she can be competitive. She has a strong leg, and she can be very accurate.”

At the same ceremony where Longo learned the big news, her high school coach Gerald Tood told a story about getting coaching advice from his brother Everett Todd. Everett was an assistant coach at New Mexico when Katie Hnida became the first woman to play in a Division I college football game in 2002. Gerald Todd asked his brother how he coaches girls.

“I don’t coach girls,” Everett Todd responded. “I coach football players.”

That’s exactly the kind of attitude that female football players need and deserve—an understanding that no matter what their gender, everyone on the team is a football player and should be treated equally and with respect.

What coach Todd understandably left out of that story was the hell Hnida faced before she joined his brother’s team. Hnida originally joined the University of Colorado as a placekicker in 1999. From day one, her teammates harassed her verbally and sexually, exposed themselves to her, rubbed their genitals on her and groped her. The abuse got worse until eventually she was raped by one teammate, which caused her to drop out of school.

When she joined the team in New Mexico in 2002, she was finally treated with the respect and dignity she deserved. Hnida credits this behavior to the team’s coach, who she says set a standard for behavior and led the team by example in a way that completely contradicts how her previous coach enabled the abuse.

After almost two decades, the world of sports hasn’t become that much more welcoming for women. The greatest athletes in the world are still reduced to their looks, their accomplishments minimized or credited to someone else, and they’re paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

Hnida’s story shows that the environment can make all the difference. Female athletes like Longo deserve coaches and teammates who respect them and treat them like the teammates they are, not “girls” who somehow snuck into their game. Football is not a traditionally friendly place for women; the domestic violence rate among NFL players is “downright extraordinary.”

But coaches and players who support female athletes and allow them to excel even in male-dominated sports can make a huge impact.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

55 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Emma Z
Past Member 7 months ago

That's very good. Thanks.

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Chad A
Chad A7 months ago

Great news!

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE7 months ago

Congratulations Becca.

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Lisa M
Lisa M7 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M7 months ago

Noted.

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Elaine W
Elaine W7 months ago

It is wonderful to hear about this!! Thanks.

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Brett C
Brett Cloud7 months ago

Ty

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Brett C
Brett Cloud7 months ago

Ty

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william Miller
william Miller7 months ago

Thanks

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