Becca Longo was destined to make history. When she lines up to kick a field goal or extra point she finds herself in a zone. She tunes out the naysayers; the people who tell her she'll never make it in football because she's a girl. When the ball is snapped, she doesn't hesitate, almost always kicking it perfectly through the uprights. As she turns to the crowd, she smiles, knowing how many people she's just proven wrong. When the time comes, Becca Longo will try to be drafted by the NFL, making history as the first female player the league has ever seen. This is her story.
Alamosa Took A Chance On Change
Adams State University is located in Alamosa, Colorado. The town of 10,000 rests four hours south of Denver. The small NCAA Division II is home to Becca Longo. The star athlete has worked long and hard to be accepted as a woman in a "man's world."
Sadly, Longo's battle for acceptance began long before she started kicking field goals for Adams State. It started in Arizona, where the brutal desert heat doesn't discriminate based on gender. Becca learned her art there, and we need to travel back there to understand just how important her story is.
Sports Were Becca's First Love
Growing up in the heat of Arizona, Becca Longo fell in love with sports from a young age. She was born into an athletic family and she displayed her natural talents early on. As she got older, many things about her changed, but her love for sports only got stronger.
To show just how adept at sports Becca was consider this; she was four years old when she learned how to get up on water skis. Five years later she was kicking a soccer ball with extreme accuracy. Before long, she had a brutal sports rivalry with her brother.
Her Brother Was Her Icon
The person who helped shape Becca the most was her brother, Bobby. He was a defensive end in high school and 11 years older than his sister. She loved watching his games and studying his every move. More than anyone else in her life, Bobby was the reason she fell in love with football.
Anything Bobby did, Becca wanted to do. More than that, she wanted to do it better. She was motivated to prove she was the better athlete. Because he played high school football, she wanted to play college football. The only thing holding her back was her gender.
Football Was Considered Too Dangerous
Because Becca Longo was a female, football was considered too dangerous for her to play. Some people even told Becca she wouldn't make it out of a game alive and she needed to stick to sports more appropriate for her.
The determined young athlete proved she could beat anyone on the basketball court. She could also take a beating on the soccer field. None of that mattered, though, because her dream laid between the hash marks. All that was left to do was figure out where she fit in on the field.
No Girls In Sight
At the end of her freshmen year at Queen's Creek High School in Chandler, Arizona everything changed for Becca Longo. She was walking with a friend when they went past the school football team practicing. The young woman noticed there were no females on the team. She took exception to the lack of diversity.
The anger that boiled up in Becca over seeing no girls in pads trying to change the system made her decision an easy one. She would be the girl that changed the system. She had no idea she would be the woman that changed history as well.
The Time To Break Down Barriers Was Now
Filled with anger, Becca vowed things would be different. She turned to her friend and made a declaration. She said she would transition from kicking soccer balls to kicking footballs, and she'd be great at it. No one was going to stand in her way.
Becca was already a star athlete at her school. Playing soccer and basketball meant the school's coaches knew who she was. They could vouch for her when the football coach came asking around. The young athlete was about to do the unthinkable; become a three star athlete in the most unconventional way possible.
She Asked Her Father For Permission
Before taking her first snap as football player, Becca knew she had to do one thing. She needed to get her father's permission. If he had said no, we imagine she still would have tried out for the team anyway. That wasn't an issue, however, and he didn't stand in his daughter's way.
At this point, Becca's path was set. She knew there would be obstacles, but they wouldn't stop her. Speaking with ESPN, she said, "I think it's just something inside of me. I don’t always have to prove myself — but I always want to."
Becca Kicks Her First Football In Front Of Pros
Over the summer, Becca Longo's parents drove her to Gilbert Christian High School to attend a kicking camp. The event was being put on by the Arizona Cardinals and was run by several professional kickers and punters. Becca was getting her first test under extreme pressure and scrutiny.
With professionals watching her closely, Becca Longo delivered. No matter how much pressure she was under, all she did was kick field goals better than everyone else. This was just another test she aced on her path to football glory. As you'll find out, there was plenty more to come.
Choosing A Trainer Wasn't Easy
After the kicking camp was over, the Longo family was approached by various professionals asking to train Becca. They saw her potential at the camp, and they all wanted to help her reach it. The family went against the grain, choosing a trainer no one expected.
Alex Zendejas was a former kicker for the university of Arizona. Over the years, he had worked with kickers at the school, turning them into all-state players. Zendejas was hesitant, but ultimately agreed to change the talented but raw kicker.
Zendejas Agreed To Train Becca On One Condition
Alex Zendejas wasn't sure he was the right man for the job when the Longo family asked him to train Becca. She was raw, and he didn't know if she was capable of playing one of the hardest positions in the game.
Eventually Zendejas relented and agreed to train Becca Longo under one condition; she needed to tryout. Becca agreed without hesitation. She showed up to the audition and blew Zendejas away. Despite the fact that Becca had never played football in her life, the former college kicker knew she was the real deal and agreed to teach her everything he knew.
Her School Laughed In Her Face
Feeling confident in her chances to play football, Becca just had one more hurdle to clear. She needed to get a tryout for the Queen Creek High School football team. When she talked to the school's athletic director, he laughed in her face.
Becca used the negativity as motivation. He didn't tell her she couldn't try out. He did belittle her, casually saying, "I guess you should go for it and try out for the team." Go for it she did, and the world was shocked by the results!
Becca Made One Heck Of A Debut
Becca Longo believed in herself, so she wasn't surprised when she tried out for her high school football team and made it. Everyone else was surprised. Was she just a cheap publicity stunt? Football is a boys game, so why was this small town school letting a girl play?
As the season played out, the world began to understand exactly why Becca made the team. She connected on 30 of 33 extra point attempts while going a perfect four for four on field goals. It was an incredible display of talent.
She Became The Target Of Bullying
Even though Becca had proved the adults in her life wrong, her classmates weren't as nice. As her athletic star rose, she became the subject of bullying. Cruel classmates online would comment on pictures of her in her jersey, "is that her jersey or her boyfriend's?"
In an interview with The Associated Press, Becca admitted, "I got laughed at the entire year." There is no way to know how hard going through her sophomore year being bullied was for Becca. We do know that in time she would have the last laugh.
Becca Made A Big Change
Knowing her classmates were never going to change and neither was she, Becca made a big decision. She needed to escape the negativity of Queen Creek High School and transferred to Basha High School, which was just 20 minutes down the road.
The transfer continued her non-traditional path to follow her dreams. Everytime she was knocked down, Becca found a way to get back up. In this case, that meant getting a fresh start at a school that would respect her gender and her special skill set.
Transferring Created Another Setback
Transferring high school's was a blessing for Becca with her peers. The students at the school didn't hold any gender biases and accepted her as a female athletic phenom who kicked butt. The problem was she wasn't allowed to play football right away.
Because of transfer rules, Becca was ineligible to play for her new high school's football team her junior year. She had to sit out and watch from the sidelines. It wasn't easy, but she spent her free time continuing to hone her skills. Soon enough, her singular focus would pay off in a big way.
Becca's Senior Year Was Perfect
Spending a year on the sidelines getting to know her peers helped Becca become one of the most popular girls at her school. Everyone knew her passion was football and no one cared. By the time her senior year rolled around, life was looking pretty perfect.
Getting back on the field was like riding a bicycle for Becca. She was nearly flawless, connecting on 35 of 38 extra points and nailing her only field goal attempt. The three missed kicks weren't even her fault. They were blocked!
The NCAA Caught Wind Of Her
With her high school career coming to an end, Becca needed a plan to make the jump to college ball. Her family compiled a highlight reel and sent it off to NCAA schools so they could see their future. Sadly, no Division I school's came calling, but she did get the attention of someone.
Josh Blankenship, the offensive coordinator for Adams State was recruiting in Arizona when he heard about Becca and decided to investigate. He was told there was a kicker he needed to see to believe.
Adams State Says, "Hello"
Blankenship didn't care that Becca Longo was a woman. His school needed a kicker and he heard she was one of the best in the country. Kicking is harder than most people give it credit for, and Blankenship knew finding the best one could changed the trajectory of Adams State's program.
Watching her in person, Blankenship was impressed. He offered her a tryout. To this point, this was the most attention any school had given Longo, and she accepted the invitation. No one had offered her anything in her life, so why would college be any different?
This Was Becca's Only Shot
Becca Longo had never faced more pressure in her life than when she showed up in Colorado on a freezing day to tryout. If she could come through with all the odds stacked against her, she would become the first female football player to ever play for an NCAA program.
The strong legged woman knew she could kick. The only thing new to her was lining up in near freezing weather to do it. The Arizona heat was great for keeping muscles lose. Waiting for the ball to be snapped in cold weather was a recipe for disaster.
History Is Written By Those Who Win
Becca's tryout consisted of 25 kicks. She made 23 and proved she could kick in any situation while under insurmountable pressure. The school's special teams coaches were beyond impressed. The team's head coach, who watched in secret, was also impressed. Becca had done everything she could.
Adams State had seen everything they needed to see. The school offered Becca a scholarship and the chance to make NCAA history. Their head coach told ESPN, "I don't care if the player’s a Martian…the gender part wasn’t really a factor to me." Soon, Becca will be NFL Draft eligible and have a chance to make even more history. Are you on her side?