Becca Longo is writing a new chapter for women in sports history. Never has there been a female athlete in the NFL, but she’s looking to change that.
She’s already breaking the mold by wreaking havoc on her college men’s team and catching the attention of many NFL scouts along the way. At just 19 years old, she has already made football history.
Becca has always been athletic, playing soccer at age 9 and basketball for her middle school and high school girl’s teams.
But football has always been harder to get into because there were never any girl’s football teams or after-school girl’s football programs.
It wasn’t until high school that Longo realized that if she wanted to play football, she’d had to be good enough to play with the boys. Longo talked to her parents, Bob and Andrea, and told them she wanted to be the kicker for her high school boys’ team. Literally one week later, her father took her to a kicking camp that was being hosted by the Arizona Cardinals at a high school located only twenty minutes away to see what Becca was made of. She was untrained and inexperienced, but had confidence and determination.
She kicked in front of a group of coaches and former NFL kickers. Despite her newness to the sport, her raw ability caught the attention of the coaches and many signed up to coach her. Her dad did his research and after weighing their options, he contacted Alex Zendejas of AZ Kicking about coaching Becca. Alex Zendejas is the region’s premier kicking coach.
Zendajas stressed the importance of accuracy over distance. His methods have already proven successful. He has had four of his family members kick in the NFL and has coached seven All-State kickers in the state of Arizona. Bob Longo knew his daughter would be in good hands. But no one imagined that from that point on, she’d make history.
Her confidence was at an all-time high. The day after her initial meeting with Zendejas, Longo sat in the office of her high school’s athletic director, Paul Reynolds, and announced her intention to try out for the high school football team as their kicker. She made the team and in her first season, she made 30 out of 33 point-after attempts and was 4 of 4 on field goals, the longest was a thirty-yarder.
The offensive coordinator of Adams State University, Josh Blankenship, visited Longo to express their interest in her playing for the Adams State Men’s football team. He invited her to come to Colorado to see the campus and learn more about Adams State and its football program. Before taking him up on his offer, Longo did her own research on the school and liked what she saw. Her father, Bob, was also researching the school, the football program, and its coaches. Bob Longo understood that his daughter’s unique role as a female football player opened her up to potential ridicule, harassment, and mockery. He hoped his daughter would end up in a situation where coaches, athletic directors, and administrators would be cognizant and encouraging of her situation. He said in an interview, “I wanted her to be coached by someone who had daughters. Coach Rosenbach has two great daughters. That sold me.”
When Longo and her parents visited Adams State a few months before her high school graduation, they all fell in love with the campus. Coach Rosenbach noted that, as a prospective student athlete, Longo could work out on campus. He sat back and waited to see if she took advantage of that opportunity. She did. That, to him, proved that Longo was serious about her potential football career at Adams State. It wasn’t long after her visit to the campus that Rosenbach offered Longo a scholarship.
In April of 2017, signed a letter of intent to play football for Adams State University, a Division II school in Alamosa, Colorado, during a customary signing ceremony at her high school, Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona. It was at this event that Longo, age 18, learned that her athletic achievements have earned her a place in the history books. Her football coach, Gerald Todd, told the audience that day that when Longo picked up her pen to sign her letter of intent, she would become the first woman to play college football on a football scholarship at a Division II or higher school.
While she is a pioneer and history maker, Longo is not necessarily a trailblazer. Several other women have played football at the college level and, like her, most have served as placekickers, a position that is often protected from contact. April Goss was a placekicker at Kent State University, Ashley Baker kicked for Framingham State University, and Morgan Salzwedel kicked at California Lutheran University. The first female to score a field goal in an NCAA game was Tonya Butler when she played for the University of West Alabama and Katie Hnida, Longo’s idol, was the first female to score in a Division I bowl game.
Longo joins an illustrious group of remarkable women who were “firsts” in sports that were dominated by man. Among them are Danica Patrick who was the first female to win an Indy Car race and Ann Meyers Drysdale, the first woman to sign an NBA contract. When Manon Rheaume took to the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, she became the first woman to play in any of the four major North American sports. In 1970, Diane Crump was the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Just a few years ago, in 2014, young Mo’ne Davis was the first female to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. But her first year of college isn’t quite going as planned…
As a freshman at Adams State, Longo had her work cut out for her. She was competing with two other kickers, freshman Tiago Paim, and sophomore, Montana Gomez, for the starting kicker position. Although Piam and Gomez saw more playing time than her in the 2017 season, Longo is undeterred. She has kicked a 50-yarder in practice and is confident that she has the skills and talent to help her team in coming seasons.
Meanwhile, she’s continuing to work her leg, concentrating on distance as well as accuracy. And she has overcome a lot in the way of bullying and negativity on her journey.