Becca Longo Could Be The NFL’s First Female Football Player
For many years, football has remained the sport for men. But times are changing, and there's one woman who transformed it once and for all. That's precisely what Becca Longo did. Read on to find out whether Becca managed to become the first female football player, and what struggles she had to go through on her way to dream.
Born To Play
One thing that gave Becca an edge over others is that her family was already athletically gifted. Since her early childhood, she has been heavily involved in sports. Sports were something she held dear and never gave up on. But her athleticism from a young age was certainly not the main factor that made her the superstar she is today. There was something else that drastically changed Becca's life.
An Early Start
At age 4, Becca was already riding with the waves, as she stood on water skis. By the time she was nine years old, Becca was kicking soccer balls with precision. Sports was just a part of her, and Becca did it effortlessly. Not only was she a natural, but she was also a fierce competitor - at least her brother Bobby can testify to this. However, neither her brother nor her coaches expected what that would lead to...
A Brother's Inspiration
For Becca, Bobby, her elder brother, was one of her inspirations. Bobby was a defensive player for his high school team and was great at what he did. That was what truly pushed Becca to go after her dream of becoming a football player. Even though Becca wanted to be like her brother, she wanted to be something more than just a regular female football player. However, the problem was that girls were expected to be cheerleaders for a football match - not players! Well, Becca decided to change that forever!
Almost everyone told her that the sport she loves so much might not be a great life decision. Injuries do occur often, and the impact can be long term. These words left a mark on Becca. She soon became discouraged, and for a while, she wasn't that involved in football anymore. But deep down, she still harbored her dreams...
The Desire Became Even Stronger
Football was the only sport that had a special place in her heart. Becca still remembered her brother playing, and she could still feel the sensation of the games - all the sounds, the collisions, the sprints... All the fond memories she has further intensified her desire. What did Becca decide to do to make her dreams come true?
When she was walking with a friend on a typical day in Queen Creek High School near Chandler, a suburban town about 30 minutes from Phoenix, Arizona, she first found her calling. It was in the closing stage of her freshman year in 2014. A football game was on, and Becca couldn't find a girl in sight. To her, this seemed so wrong. As she kept watching, she became more agitated. The system had failed, and she knew that she had to veer her frustrations. And she came up with the best decision on how to fix it!
Breaking The Norms
Having seen enough, Becca told her friend that she knew she was a star with the female soccer and basketball team, but she was ready to change that. Becca even made a promise that not only was she going to play football, but she was also going to break all the records. She knew she was going to be a star, a three-sport star: basketball, soccer, and, most importantly, football. She was going to break all the barriers that came her way. But don't get too excited yet. The most important part was ahead. Now it was time to talk to her family!
Convincing Her Dad
Right from childhood, her family knew that their daughter had a competitive streak. Nevertheless, Becca still was a bit nervous since she did not know what her dad's reaction will be. When she got home that day, Becca informed her father about her decision to play football for Queens Creek. What do you think his reaction was like?
Well, her father wasn’t surprised at all. He knew that Becca was always into sports. A week after she first talked to her parents, the family attended the Arizona Cardinals' high school training camp. The drive was 20 minutes away from Queen Creek. Seeing the other players around her, Becca jumped in and requested to join the game. She had never played in her life. Still, a lot of people questioned her involvement due to her gender...
She Was Unstoppable
The camp had many NFL stars in attendance, all of them paying attention to the best talents from Arizona high school. Even though a lot of people questioned her involvement due to her gender, Becca became a star. The feeling Becca had afterward was one that she wouldn't trade for anything in the world. She had proven herself, so what was her next step?
A Gridiron Guru
After the game, Becca and her father were approached by former NFL players, all offering to take her under their wing. Everybody saw the potential in her, but everybody knew she was also raw and needed refinement. The Longos would eventually settle on Alex Zendejas, a former University of Arizona kicker, to train their daughter. But it seems Becca and her family have some doubts about that offer!
Why Did the Coach Choose Her?
Alex Zendejas had trained seven Arizona kickers and had a reputation for building the best kickers in Arizona. From the get-go, Zendejas was impressed with Becca's physical attributes, such as her height and strength. But what he loved the most about her was her determination. However, would that be enough for Coach Zendejas?
Seeing Is Believing
It was true that Zendejas had seen Becca play on the field, but it was only for a short while. Zendejas had to be sure that Becca had the correct mix of skill and determination. She has a great physique, but her skills were still lacking. This didn't deter Zendejas because he knew that all Becca needed was proper training. She also knew that and was ready to take on that challenge. Hence, both of them agreed to a trial period. But it was too early to celebrate because she still had to talk to the school's athletic directors. And it seems their opinion about Becca's idea was different from hers.
Another Obstacle on Her Way
As soon as she got back to school, Becca went to her school’s athletic director’s office. Becca told him she wanted to play for the football team; all she got was a cold shoulder. He replied sarcastically, “I guess you should go for it and try out for the team.” It wasn’t exactly the response Longo wanted to hear, but it was all she needed to kickstart her dreams. The director’s mocking laughter would serve as an even stronger motivation for Becca. She was prepared to face any challenge. So the next step was a tryout!
Having had training sessions with Zendejas, Becca decided to try out for the Junior Varsity team at Queen's Creek. She believed that she was more than ready to handle whatever pressure came her way. She remained as calm as she could, as a clear mind is the key to everything. It came as no surprise when they listed Becca as one of the members of the team. In her first season, Becca connected on 30 of 33 point-after-attempts and was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals. It was an incredible performance for anyone! She was living her dreams. But there were other challenges waiting for her...
Every success story has a setback or mountain to overcome, and Becca had her problems too. She was the star of the team, but she couldn't hide who she was. Becca was loved on gamedays, but on other days she was bullied. She was the laughing stock of her friends. At one point, she was about to give up...
The Reactions of Society
Her classmates and friends couldn't come to terms with the fact that a woman was playing football. It didn't matter that she was one of the best players on the team. For some of them, it was a sport for boys, and that was that. The sexism was quickly becoming overwhelming for her, and she had to do something about it. What could she do?
Change For The Better
Normally, football is a game that advocates meritocracy. What this means is that you get to play if only you merit the position - it doesn't matter if you are the biggest name in the team. If you cannot perform, you are relegated to the bench. Becca was in a unique position, though. She couldn't stand the bullies and the constant belittling of her choice. She decided to leave Queen Creek High School to go to a neighboring school: Basha High School. Her new school was 20 minutes away from her former school. She needed to stay away from negativity. But was it really a good choice for her?
New School, New Life
The transfer to a new school was more than helpful for Becca. Unlike Queen Creek, there was less pressure. Becca had to sit out her junior year because of state transfer rules, so she wasn't allowed to play. She decided to use the downtime to sharpen her skills. The time off from the team was a blessing in disguise. Becca was able to hone her kicking skills even more. She was now the best kicker on the team. This made her one of the most valuable athletes in her new school. But it seemed it was still not enough!
Putting Up The Numbers
When the time finally came for Becca to make her debut with the Basha High School team in 2016 as the starting kicker, it looked like she had never left. As agile as ever, Becca connected on 35 of 38 points and also scored her one field goal in that season. Everyone knew she was ready. This time, she wasn't seen as the "girl on the football team"; she was just Becca. She did her job, and she always did it right. Now, she had to take the next step!
Closer to Her Dream
After a remarkable senior season, Becca began to catch the attention of regional collegiate recruiters. She was expecting offers from Division I schools, but none came. Even though she wasn't offered an athletic scholarship at first, she was still determined to make her dreams come true. But how could she achieve that?
Never giving up
In the meantime, Becca and her father compiled videos of her playing. That caught the attention of Josh Blakenship, who offered to coach Becca. He was the offensive coach at Adams State University, which is a Division II school in Colorado. Rumors started flying around of a star in the making. Would her gender matter?
Adams State Comes Calling
Adams State needed a kicker. Josh Blankenship had seen Becca's videos, but was she the one? He decided to talk to her and find out. After seeing what Becca had to offer, he decided to invite her for a tryout for Adams State. Once again, Becca would have to impress someone important. The invitation was a perfect opportunity for Becca to silence critics again.
Making The Grade
Everything happened on a cold Friday afternoon. Becca, her holder, and some coaches accompanied her to the tryouts. This was her big chance to impress everyone and get an elusive NCAA scholarship. Becca had prepared for this for the last four years, and she was going to give it everything she had!
One Chance Out of a Thousand
Becca knew it was now or never and that if she spoiled her chance, it might never happen again. With that understanding, Becca had to take this chance. She knew she had been faced with this situation before, and this would be her shot. Becca was faced with extremely cold temperatures but still managed a return of 23 out of 25 goal attempts. She remained calm and unperturbed, despite the circumstances...even as the winds were blowing against her - literally! She went on...
Impressing Your Coach
Her focus was unbeatable. The special team's coaches were very impressed. Timm Rosenbach, who was the head coach at Adams State, was also impressed. When ESPN interviewed Rosenbach, he said, “I don’t care if the player’s a Martian…the gender part wasn’t really a factor to me,” But it wasn't just Rosenbach - everyone was convinced of Becca's ability after her display. It was judgment time for Becca!
Adams State would reward Becca by offering her a scholarship. That made Becca the first female to earn a football scholarship at the NCAA Division I or II levels. The most important thing was whether she could help them win or lose. At Adams State, they were always used to winning. In an interview with CNN, Becca had this to say; “I was completely shocked. Everybody who has it on the video said my jaw dropped to the floor,” Becca couldn't believe her eyes. However, she had some doubts about whether to sign the letter of intent or not...
After some considerations, she finally made up her mind. Becca signed her letter of intent! Even though her numbers were great in high school, she also had to overcome enormous obstacles. She was a girl, football remains a men's game - but now she had proven the opposite. In an interview with AP, she said, “I don’t know how many people told me I couldn’t play football, and I should stop and give up. I look at where they’re at now and where I’m. I mean, had I listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I am today”. Still, not everyone was so happy for her success...
Ignoring The Doubters
The rising star was quick to quell doubters when people reacted negatively to her. Although her football abilities cannot be denied, Becca was constantly reminded that football was still very much a "man's game." Longo said, “If they want to think that, they can think that then I’m just going to kick a game-winning, 55-yard field goal … see how loud they are then. I’ve been doubted in everything I’ve done. Being mentally strong is the only defensive mechanism I have.”
Becca received some amazing support, too, especially from her female colleagues. One of them was former Arizona Cardinals interim assistant coach, Jennifer Welter. She declared her support for Becca and told young girls to see Becca as an example. Now Becca was playing at a much higher level!
At Adams State University
When Becca paid a visit to the training practice of the Adams State Grizzlies in April 2018, Bleacher Report interviewed Rosenbach. In the interview, he said, “Becca is a football player, and that’s it.” Making that statement signified that the team was solidly behind Becca. The coach told his team not to be distracted because Becca was a girl. Instead, they should focus on carrying out their duties and leave the kicking to Becca. What did her teammates REALLY think about her?
Transition To College
At Adams State, Becca fit right in. Her transition to college life was smooth. As a girl signed up to be a two-sport athlete, she was scrutinized heavily. Still, she didn’t receive as much bullying as she did back in high school. Becca was like everyone else, a normal girl who had a passion for sports. Longo was just a player like everybody else. Besides her gender, there was another major difference...
Warm And Welcoming
The difference was that she was putting in more work. However, it was not that difficult in college, where Becca was received with a warm welcome. Everybody seemed to welcome her with open arms. That's something she didn’t get while in high school. This motivated her to do even more for the team. Even with this welcome, she still needed to prove herself.
Not That Easy!
“She’s put herself out there to let everyone know she wants to do this,” Rosenbach told CNN. “If she’s able to compete at a level, we think she’s able to compete at any level, and we should afford her that opportunity to do that,” At this point, it was evident that Becca was becoming great at her sport and it was what she wanted to do. But she still had quite a battle ahead!
A Clean Slate
Becca's sophomore year was more like a clean slate, considering how she did well in her freshman year. She was ready to be called upon at any time. The starter for Adams State was named Erick Luiz, and he was going to fight her tooth and nail for the starter's job. She didn't start the first week of the season. However, she was ready to be called upon at any time. She was prepared to seize the opportunity and prove that she was no pushover. She firmly believed that it was a matter of time before she was called up. Was it like that in reality?
"I’ve done this for so long, so when I’m on the field, I am one of the guys, because that’s how they treat me,” Longo told the AP. “But sometimes, I’ll walk on the field by myself and think, ‘I’m playing college football. How crazy is that.’” She continued, They’ve accepted me for me. We’re all really close. Once you step off the field, everybody is a best friend.” The bond not only reduces tension in the locker room, but it also helps to build a strong bond. There was only one problem - it seemed like Becca was not going to be the first woman in history to play football in the NCAA!
Becca would make history when she played for Adams State University. It will be the third time a girl would do that in the NCAA. And that will be historic. It will be an unforgettable experience for people now and in the years to come. Becca isn't going to be the first woman in history to play Division 1-A football in the NCAA. In fact, that record belongs to Katie Hnida, who played football for the University of Colorado. Katie later had to transfer to the University of New Mexico, where she broke a record for being the first woman to kick in a blowout in 2003. This was the first time a woman would score at the NCAA's highest level. But Becca would still make history!
Becca wouldn't be the second woman to play in the NCAA either. Scoring in the league is a feat that paved the way for women to pick an interest in football. Also, Becca's success made many aware that anything is possible as long as they put their minds to it. The very first woman in NCAA football history was Ashley Martin. She was also the first woman to score int the NCAA, albeit for a Division 1-AA school. She hit an extra point for Jacksonville State University in 2001. Becca's accomplishment was still significant, though! Read on tho find out why!
The history Becca made was that she was the first woman to be on an athletic scholarship as a football player in NCAA history. Becca understood the enormous nature of this achievement, but she also understood that she couldn't allow it to go to her head. Nobody has scored while being a recruit for a team. Others who have done it were walk-ons. None of them were extended scholarships right out of high school. There's something else that made Becca a historical figure in the American sports world!
An Inspiration For Millions
Longo has become a source of inspiration for millions of people. Young people, especially young women, look up to her, and she doesn’t disappoint them. Becca gives motivational quotes to help her young fans on her Instagram page. In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Becca said, “If they want to play football, go out and play football. If they want to play hockey, they can go out and play hockey.” She believes that if you have a dream, chase it and grab it with both hands. What does her future hold? We have some thoughts about it.
Waiting Her Turn
Though Becca hasn't featured in any games, she knows she isn't there for her gorgeous looks or her publicity. She knows she is certainly not there to keep the bench warm. Becca knows she will get a game one day and incorporate herself into the team. Longo is popular on social media because her story is a refreshing one. So when she does get her first kick, not only will she celebrate, but her fans around the world will join her in celebrating a great feat.
Down But Not Out
An untimely injury to Becca would have to make her wait for her first kick. The damage would make Becca spend the majority of 2018 out on the sidelines. Just like any other injury, it is a setback. So it doesn't mean it is the end of the world. Instead of her regular cleats, she would have to wear a walking boot. Knowing Becca, this is a small thing for her to overcome. There is a big chance that Becca comes back even better than before because injuries toughen people up, and this is evident in Longo's journey. Her mental toughness is one in which her coach can vouch for any time. She knows what to do and how to do it. She was made for this.
Becca's ankle injury meant that she wouldn't be able to kick for Adams State anytime soon. She still wanted to pursue her dream, though. In September 2019, she made the difficult decision to transfer to Gila River Junior College. She quickly became the starting kicker for her new team, the Gila River Hawks. She finally did get her starting job with the Hawks. In the first two games of the 2019 season, she went 4 for 7 in point-after attempts and kicked one field goal at 22 yards. Not too bad! She's often tagged as the first woman who could play in the NFL. Only time will tell, but she's still an inspiration to many.
That is the story of Becca Longo - at least so far. We hope you enjoyed it and were inspired by her. If this story inspired you, would you share it with your family and friends? They may be inspired too! Thanks for reading!