Can a woman play in the NFL?
There can be no saying whether the founders of the National Football League ever thought of women playing in the league. Since its inception, the NFL has been an all-male affair on the player’s side.
That could change in the near future. Becca Longo of Arizona is the first female to have received a scholarship at the Division II level or higher. She will be playing with the Adams State University, Alamosa. Where will it go from there? We’ll have to watch and see.
Being Where No Other Woman Has Been
The 18-year-old football sensation has caught the eyes of coach Alex Zendejas, and when he says someone is going to make it to the NFL, he has a pretty good track record.
Becca’s inspiration to play football came when she was just 5 years old. In 2004 she saw Heidi Garrett hit the longest recorded kick for a high school female player, at 48 yards.
Becca came across Heidi at the team party for players and families (Becca’s brother was a player) and the only thing she could do was to keep staring at her. It was not just her. Even her father, Bob Longo, was inspired by something about the record holder – the relation between Heidi and her father. Rance Garrett and Heidi would spend long hours training on the fields, with her father offering her all the support and love his daughter needed to excel. In fact, Bob has said that he even felt jealous of the father and daughter.
As a freshman, Becca surprised everyone when she kicked a ball across the field when challenged by boys. After she expressed her ambitions of becoming a school kicker to her father, there was no stopping her. She began practicing under Zendejas. In her very first season at the Junior Varsity, Longo hit 34/37.
Inspired by Brother Bobby
Even before Heidi, Becca was inspired by her elder brother, Bobby who played defense with Martin Luther King High School, Riverside, California. She watched all his games and was always trying to mimic him.
Speaking of challenges, Becca has always been faced with doubters and naysayers. She claims that many people have taunted her to be nothing more than a “publicity stunt,” but she has done nothing else but ignored them all through.
Her final year saw her convert 30 extra points from 33 attempts.Strengths & Potential
Becca’s new coach Timm Rosenbach is ambitious about her future and has been very particular about her strengths and potentials. According to him she’s highly accurate and has strong legs. She regularly hits 45-yard goals. The 5-foot-11 kicker was also accurate on the only field goal attempt of her last season.
Becca has everything working for her to make her dream come true – she is truly inspired, she has a star personal kicking coach, and good strength and form. Her personal coach has already coached 7 All-State kickers.
Becca is also a versatile sportsperson. She is not only an accomplished football kicker, but she is also a great basketball player. She will also be playing basketball at Adams.
Women in College Football
Around a dozen women have so far been college football players at different levels. Liz Heaston is the first female to have scored in college football games, in 1997. But there has never been a female kicker that has shown the abilities that Becca has. Her inspiration, Heidi Garrett, may have hit the longest recorded kick in a game, but Becca herself has hit a 50-yard goal during practice.
She’s just 18 and she continues to get stronger. There’s every reason why this 145-pound athlete is all set to make it to the NFL and create a landmark record in the history of the league.
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The Challenge: Can a Woman play in the NFL?
Becca Longo has had someone in her family playing football and then she was inspired by Heidi Garrett. But the first time she decided to play football was in the spring of 2014 when she was challenged. When she was at Queen Creek High and playing with the boys, she was challenged to kick a ball. The boys were surprised to watch her kick the ball right into orbit.
Just a week later she was at a training camp being run by the Arizona Cardinals. Even though she looked amateur when she kicked the ball, her father ended up getting business cards from the former NFL legends and coaches who were at the camp. This included Mike Vanderjagt, Chandler Catanzaro, and Nick Lowery, to name a few. Eventually, things led him to meet the legendary coach, Alex Zendejas.
Becca must have had something special in her to have won the attention and interest of someone like Mike Vanderjagt. And when Zendejas saw her, his first impression was that she was strong and athletic. It was impressive when someone like him was amazed by her kicking motion and flexibility. The very next day she was at the office of the athletic director, Paul Reynolds, and made her way kicking into her first season at junior varsity.
More than a Football Kicker
As already mentioned, Becca is a true sportsperson all through. Once Becca was at a high school state basketball game, she was picked out from the crowd to shoot a free throw. She made the perfect shot into the net.
Becca will start her season at Division II level in July, the first time a female player has accomplished this. Her parents are so happy about it, they have bought an RV to make sure that they could travel to all the stadiums to watch their daughter play.
Becca Longo: Role Model
Becca Longo has already made history and she is just 18. With the strength, skills, and confidence that she has, Becca is all set to have a great future. The NFL has never had a woman set foot on the field for any team, but she is the one who in all probability is likely to change that. And for the best, she should change that forever and inspire more girls to dream bigger.
Her father rightly exclaimed when he said that his daughter has come so far and yet her story is just beginning. Longo’s most important role other than kicker on the football team and women’s basketball player will likely be role model to other younger sports-minded girls. She may not just be opening doors for herself, but also for others.
By Andy Atticus
Andy is a sportswriter living in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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