As Lars Anderson wrote in a Bleacher Report article that has received a lot of attention this month, “Becca Longo is 18. She can kick a football farther than you can. She’s got a scholarship. And she’s just getting started.”
Anderson sets the scene with a story about Longo and legendary NFL kicking coach Alex Zendejas, cruising down the highway just outside of Phoenix in the 115-degree heat, imagining a future in which a woman plays Division II football on scholarship.
“You are like my second father, and you’re a huge reason I’m doing this,” says Becca Longo, riding shotgun, “You’ve made this happen.”
“What separates you from everyone else is that you stuck with it, even in the hard times,” says Zendejas, “You have all the potential in the world. Keep at it, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be the first female playing on Sundays.”
“That’s the Girl Trying to Play Football!”
Friends and family recall how on one late-summer afternoon in 2014 Longo was feeling the pressure. It was an hour before kickoff for the season-opening junior varsity game between Queen Creek and Poston Butte High.
Longo was a sophomore who had only recently even learned how to put on her pads. She pulled her #28 jersey on over her pads and joined her teammates at Queen Creek to board the bus and head over to Poston Butte for the big game.
She sat on the bench and tightened the laces of the soccer cleat on her right foot, nervously anticipating the very first game of her high school career. She visualized herself succeeding through every step of the kick: her approach, her plant foot, connecting with the ball, her swing-through. She felt she was going to throw up.
As Becca Longo walked out to the playing field to begin warming up, a crowd of young girls gathered around her to ask for pictures, autographs, and hugs. In the bleachers people were pointing at her. Someone yelled, “There she is. That’s the girl trying to play football!”
For Longo, NFL or Bust!
Longo has a long horizon ahead of her, one that includes being the first woman to kick in the NFL. This April, overcoming the adversity of being a woman with a dream of competing at the highest level in a sport that is almost exclusively the domain of men, Longo became the first female athlete to win a football scholarship to a Division I or Division II school.
Only around a dozen women have ever played college football at any level, but it appears that no female kicker has ever possessed the kind of natural talent that Longo has, who routinely kicks field goals from 45 yards in practice.
Timm Rosenbach, a former NFL quarterback and the head coach at Adams State, says:
”If you can play football and you have determination, I don’t care what your gender is. And Becca can play, simple as that. She’s got accuracy and she’s got a powerful leg, which will only get stronger. We brought her to Adams State for a reason: to compete for a job and help us win football games.”
Longo’s career in college football will begin next month. That’s when she’ll move into her new dorm in Alamosa and begin training with the Grizzlies.