I was reading a story about a young woman that signed a letter of intent to play college football at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, as a kicker on the men’s football team. Becca Longo follows the steps of a few female kickers that have cracked College Football rosters over the years in the NCAA. The list is actually quite a bit longer than I expected, according to Wikipedia, as it is now sitting at around 11. What makes this story great is that Longo is the first woman to receive college football scholarship from a D-II school or higher.
Becca got into football as it was a shared interest between her and her brother. Being that her brother was 11 years older than her Longo found they didn’t have many shared interests so football became a bonding point for them. Since her brother had a female kicker on his team when he played he really encouraged her to do it if she wanted to.
Over the last little while Becca’s story has really started to gain a lot of attention. Recently it has been a lot more positive but she said that it hasn’t been the case all along. She initially got a lot of negativity including classmates making fun of her asking her if she was wearing her boyfriend’s jersey.
The source of strength Becca has found has been in her teammates who all wore her jersey to school before her first-ever high school football game to show her support. One of the biggest supporters has been her coach at Adams State Timm Rosenbach who treats her like a football player and an athlete not as just as a girl. Rosenbach has explained that his wife was a former pro athlete and so he sees her as a football player who has earned the opportunity on his team.
Years ago I read “Still Kicking” the book by Katie Hnida who was the first woman to play Division I college football in the early 2000’s with the University of Colorado and then transferred to the University of New Mexico. She talked about the struggles and joys of being on the men’s football team. It is very inspiring to see stories like this continue to evolve. Hnida put up with a lot of tough circumstances and harassment when she was playing football. Unfortunately, she was raped and sexually harassed but those circumstances have made her much stronger as she continued her football career at a different school.
In the book Hnida said “I never intentionally set out to break a barrier; I was simply following a dream. But as I followed that dream, there were many obstacles that blocked my way. There were times when it would have been easier to simply back down from those obstacles. But I realized that I had to reach deep inside and keep going to reach my dream. I know that doing things that are important or significant seldom come easy. I owed it to myself and to those who believed in me. I wasn’t going to let anyone take away something that was in my heart.”
There are things that are just innate in people who push to do great things in life. I think the thing that is most interesting is that we are all humans and sometimes we focus so much on the things that make us different than one another. There are so many things that we have in common. I am not sure why that difference in gender is such a source of contention. I wish it could be a source of support and pride that someone is willing to challenge the boundaries in an area where they can excel and contribute in such a positive way. I really hope that Becca has a more positive experience in the next phase of her life.
Hnida went on to say in her book “Sitting here. I can just smell it. Football. The sweat, the fresh-cut grass, the night air. God I love it. It’s hard to believe everything I’ve gone through to get to this point - so much pain, so much heartache. But when you are doing something that has never been done before, there is no blueprint to follow. There is no instruction manual, no emergency button, nothing solid to rely on. You just go day by day. I don’t regret a second of any of it, though - none of the work, the hurt, or the disappointments I’ve gone through chasing my dream… it’s made me stronger, forced me to look deeper and strive for more. No matter what I have gone through, no matter what I have to go through, I am going to make this happen. I know who I am and I know where I am supposed to be - on the football field, still kicking.”
Wishing Becca Longo all the best as she embarks on her journey and the full weight of her experience. I hope you take it further than Katie and the other women did before you! You are going to do great!