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For years, football has been considered a sport for men only. But times are changing, and there’s one woman named Becca Longo that transformed everything once and forever. What exactly happened? Did she manage to be the first female football player? What struggles did she have to go through on her way to dream? Check out!
Born into an athletically gifted family, Becca has been keen on sports since childhood. At 4, she began riding the waves on her water skis. At age 9, she could kick soccer balls with precision. Sport was just a part of her, and she did it effortlessly. But her athleticism wasn’t the main factor that made her the superstar she is today. There was something else that drastically changed her life.
For Becca, her elder brother Bobby was one of her inspirations. Bobby was a great defensive player on his high school team. That truly pushed Becca to pursue her dream of becoming a football player. Moreover, she wanted to be something more than a regular player. But, the problem was that girls were only expected to be cheerleaders for a football game, not players! Well, Becca decided to change that forever!
It was on a typical day while Becca was walking with a friend in Queen Creek High School that she first found her calling. A football match was on, and Becca couldn't find a girl playing in sight. Incensed and frustrated, she felt something was wrong with the system. Then she came up with the best solution on how to fix it!
As they watched, Becca told her friend that despite she was already a star with the female soccer and basketball team, she planned to take the plunge into football. She even made a promise that she was not only going to play football, but she was also going to break all the records. The girl was determined to break all the barriers that came her way, and she started with a bold move.
When she got home that day, Becca told her father about her decision to play football for Queens Creek. Well, he wasn’t surprised at all. He knew she was always into sports and meant what she said. A week later, the family went to the Arizona Cardinals' high school football training camp. Seeing the other players around her, Becca jumped into their midst and asked to join in. But many questioned her involvement due to her gender...
The camp had many NFL players in attendance, all paying attention to the best talents on the field. Becca became a star due to her stunning performances, despite being a female player. She had proven herself, so what would she do next?
After the game, many former NFL stars approached Becca and offered to take her under their wings. They all saw the potential in her, but they also knew she was raw and needed refinement. Becca and her family eventually settled on Alex Zendejas, a former University of Arizona kicker. But they still had some doubts about that offer!
Alex Zendejas had a reputation for producing the best kickers in Arizona. From the get-go, he was impressed with Becca's physical attributes, most importantly, her determination. Although her skills were still lacking, it didn’t hold him back. As for Becca, she also knew her weaknesses and was ready to take that challenge. Hence, they both agreed to a trial period. But it was still too early to celebrate…
As soon as she returned to school, Becca went directly to the athletic director’s office. She told him she wanted to play for the football team, but he only laughed at her, saying sarcastically, "I guess you should go for it and try out for the team.” It wasn’t exactly the response Becca expected, but it did serve as a stronger motivation for her. Nothing would stop her from chasing her dream. So the next step was a tryout!
After training for some time with Zendejas, Becca decided to try out for the Junior Varsity team at Queen's Creek. Of course, she made it. In her first season, Becca connected on 30 of 33 point-after-attempts and went 4-for-4 on field goals. It was an amazing performance for anyone! She was living her dreams! But things didn’t always go her way…
Every success story is not as perfect as it seems and Becca had her problems too. She was loved on game days, while on other days, she was bullied. She was the laughing stock of her classmates and friends. They couldn’t accept the fact that a woman was playing football. The sexism was quickly becoming overwhelming for her. She had to do something.
Becca couldn't stand the constant bullying and belittling of her choice. She decided to leave Queen Creek High School and go to a neighboring school, Basha High School, which was 20 minutes away from her former school. She needed to stay away from negativity. But was it really a good choice for her?
Unlike in Queen Creek, Becca felt less pressure in her new school. She had to sit out her junior year due to the state transfer rules, so she wasn't allowed to play. She decided to use the downtime to sharpen her kicking skills. The time away from the team was a blessing in disguise. Becca became the best kicker on the team. This made her one of the best athletes in her new school. But it still seemed not enough for her.
Then it was finally time for Becca to make her debut with the Basha High School team as the starting kicker. She was still as agile and sharp as before. In that season, Becca connected on 35 of 38 points and also scored one field goal. Once again, she did her job perfectly. This time, she wasn't seen as the "girl on the football game"; she was just Becca. Now, she had to take the next step!
After an incredible senior season, Becca began to catch the attention of regional collegiate recruiters. Josh Blakenship, the offensive coach at Adams State University - a Division II school in Colorado, invited her for a tryout. Becca knew the chance was now or never and if she missed, it might never happen again.
It all happened on a cold Friday afternoon. Becca, along with her holder and some coaches, went to the tryout. She knew this was her big chance to impress everyone and win an elusive NCAA scholarship. She had been preparing for this day for the last four years! She was going to give it all she had!
Despite facing extremely cold temperatures and strong winds, Becca just went on her display. Her focus was unbeatable. Finally, the tough girl managed a return of 23 out of 25 goal attempts. Rumors started circulating about a star in the making. But would her gender matter?
Timm Rosenbach, a former NFL player and the head coach at Adams State, was deeply impressed. "I don’t care if the player’s a Martian... The gender part wasn’t really a factor to me,” he said in an interview with ESPN. Actually, it wasn't just Rosenbach. Everyone present was convinced by Becca's ability. Then it was judgment time for Becca!
Adams State decided to reward Becca with a scholarship offer. That would make Becca the first female to get a football scholarship at the NCAA Division I or II levels. In an interview with CNN, Becca admitted, "I was completely shocked. Everybody who has it on the video said my jaw dropped to the floor.” After a deep thought, Becca finally made up her mind and signed her letter of intent.
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.” But still, there were people who reminded her football was a "man's game." How did she react?
"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 said. But how was her college life? Was she bullied again because of her gender?
Becca fit right in at Adams State University. Everyone seemed to welcome her with open arms, especially her teammates. That's something she didn’t get while in high school. She and her team had a strong bond. "They’ve accepted me for me. We’re all really close. Once you step off the field, everybody is a best friend,” she told the AP. But as she was waiting for her first kick, something unexpected happened.
An untimely ankle injury forced Becca to spend the majority of 2018 out on the sidelines. She wouldn't be able to play for Adams State anytime soon. 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.
Becca finally got her starting job with the Hawks. In the first two games of the 2019 season, she made 4 for 7 in points after attempts and kicked one field goal at 22 yards. Not too bad! She's often tagged as the first female who could play in the NFL. Only time will tell. But she's still an inspiration to all.
Becca has become an inspiration to millions of people, especially to young women. She often posts motivational quotes on Instagram to help her fans. In an interview with 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. So simple but so true, uh?
Even if Becca had played in a game for Adams State University, she would not be the first woman in history to play football in the NCAA. In fact, that record belongs to Ashley Martin. However, Becca still made history by being the first woman ever to receive a scholarship to play college football at the Division II level or higher.
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