In a male-dominated sport, a female football player kicks down the “grass” ceiling
Senior year of high school is full of many exciting moments and milestones. It’s also the time many kids start looking towards the future and seeing what’s possible for them in the world. What heights they can soar to. What kind of people they can become. Some even make history before stepping their cleats on campus.
Arizona student Becca Longo, 18, has just become the first female athlete to land a football scholarship to an NCAA school at Division II or higher, according to CNN.
“I’m going to go in, I’m going to be ready to compete,” Becca says. “I’m not one to back down to anybody.”
The Basha High School senior signed her letter of intent to play college football at Adams State University on National Signing Day in February. She tells PEOPLE that she thought it was a really exciting milestone, but she didn’t know it was historic until her coach mentioned it at the ceremony.
“I had no idea,” Longo explains. “It didn’t really kick in until a couple hours after, I just thought I was signing a piece of paper to go play the sport I love again. Even right now, I’m still shocked. It just doesn’t feel real.”
Like many football players, Longo recorded a highlights reel to show off her skills and sent it to several schools. She reportedly received multiple responses and one from Adams State.
When the season was over, the offensive coordinator traveled to Longo’s hometown to talk to her in person about attending the school. That’s not all. He also wanted to chat with her about a football scholarship. When Longo visited Adams State about a month later, she “fell in love” with the school. “Everyone was so warm and welcoming. I just loved everything about it.”
As to whether the topic of her being a girl came up – it didn’t. She was seen for all of the other things she is including a badass athlete. Longo said that in talks with Timm Rosenbach, the head coach for Adams State (and a former NFL quarterback), her gender didn’t really play a part at all.
“He didn’t treat me like a girl,” she says. “He treats me like a football player.”
That’s probably because Rosenbach has seen other examples of female athletes doing incredible things in his life. He told the Arizona Republic, “I don’t look at it that way. My wife is a former pro athlete. I see her as a football player who earned it.”
Longo isn’t entirely in a league of her own as she’s not the first female to play college football, but she is the first to play for an NCAA-affiliated program on scholarship. According to available resources, it appears there have been about a dozen documented women who’ve played college football before her. This certainly gives us hope for more women in football, but the negativity that Longo initially experienced is hard to ignore. It also signals to us that the idea of a female football player could stand to be more normalized. She recounts to PEOPLE how classmates used to make fun of her when she wore her own jersey to school. They asked if she was wearing her own jersey or her boyfriend’s.
“I got a lot of negativity, and people saying I couldn’t do it,” she says. “But that’s just what pushed me to do what I’m doing.”
Longo, who will also be playing basketball at Adams State, doesn’t seem too focused on the historical magnitude (nor the aforementioned negativity), she’s like any other college bound athlete who’s ready to play and make their team proud.
Long told ESPN, “I’m ready to compete. I don’t really have any expectations beyond that.”