Becca Longo, an 18-year-old kicker from Arizona, has become the first woman to earn a football scholarship at the Division II level or higher. The teenager, who can regularly hit field goals from 45 yards out, will become one of roughly a dozen women to have ever played college football at any level once she begins school at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. And according to Longo’s coach, Alex Zendejas — a member of the most prolific and famed family of kickers in all of professional football — Longo’s kicking career might not end in college.
“What separates you from everyone else is that you stuck with it, even in the hard times,” Zendejas told Longo, according to a profile by the Bleacher Report. “You have all the potential in the world. Keep at it, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be the first female playing on Sundays,” he said, referring to the day of the week on which the majority of NFL games are played.
In 2004, when Longo was only 5 years old, she watched high school kicker Heidi Garrett smash a 48-yard field goal — a kick that still holds the record for the longest high school field goal by a female — against her cousin’s football team in California.
Later, as a freshman in high school, she surprised a group of boys — and herself — when she blasted a ball across the field on a dare. That same day, Longo spoke with her father about trying to become the school’s kicker. After an inexperienced Longo wowed a group of former players and coaches at a workout, famed kicker Mike Vanderjagt among them, she began practicing with Zendejas and his son, Alex Jr., a former Arizona kicker who is perhaps best known for missing a crucial extra-point attempt in 2009 against Arizona State in double-overtime. After her first day of practice with Zendejas, she went and spoke to the athletic director of her high school.
“I want to play football,” she told him. “I want to kick.”
In her first season kicking for her school’s Junior Varsity team, Longo made 34 out of 37 attempted kicks. She’s faced doubters too. “I’ve heard people say that I’m just a publicity stunt, that I don’t deserve this chance,” Longo told the Bleacher Report. “I don’t let that bother me. I just need to stay true to who I am — and stay true to what I’ve learned and keep improving — and I’ll be just fine. I really believe that. I really do.”
That mental toughness will serve Longo well as her potential future as a kicker in college, and maybe even the pros, will likely have more to do with her mental strength than her physical strength — at least according to Zendejas Jr.
“Kicking isn’t about all the makes; it’s about how you respond to the misses,” he said. “This is what I tell Becca. She’s going to confront difficult times. How she responds will define her. But she’s ready. She’s ready for anything.”
Watch video of Longo in action below.
Read the full story at Bleacher Report.