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Arizona Woman Is Hailed As First Female To Earn A College Football Scholarship

Becca Longo won't be the first female kicker in college football, but she's believed to be the first to earn a scholarship in Division I or II, after Longo, 18, signed a letter of intent to play for Adams State University in Colorado next year.

Longo says she wasn't aware she might be making history when she accepted the scholarship offer during a signing ceremony at the Phoenix-area Chandler Basha High School in Arizona.

"I didn't know until ... Coach Todd was saying that I had just made history that I was," Longo tells local TV station Channel 12, citing her former coach Gerald Todd. "Like, I had no idea. I just thought I was just signing a piece of paper, that I was just going to go do what I love to do."

Longo kicked for the Basha Bears for two seasons, wearing number 4. As a senior, she made 35 of 38 extra-point attempts and also hit a 30-yard field goal, according to Adams State.

"It was like recruiting any other athlete," Adams State coach Timm Rosenbach told AZ Central. "In Division II, we can see their workouts. To me, there is no doubt she can be competitive. She has a strong leg and she can be very accurate."

In addition to football, Longo, who is listed at 5'11" and 145 pounds, has signed a letter of intent to play basketball for the women's team at Adams State. She's ranked among Arizona's top 60 hoops players by the MaxPreps site.

Longo has won new fans and followers with her signing — but along the way, she's also heard from people who told her football is a man's sport.

"All the time, I get it all the time," she told Channel 12. "I just ignore it, and don't listen to it. I just do what I do."

Longo has a distant link to another history-making football player: Katie Hnida, the University of New Mexico kicker who in 2003 became the first woman to score in a Division I football game. Hnida was coached on special teams by Everett Todd — the brother of Longo's coach, Gerald Todd.

During this week's signing ceremony in Basha High's gym, Gerald Todd recalled asking his brother after that historic game, "How do you coach a girl?"

"I don't coach girls," Everett Todd replied, according to his brother. "I coach football players."

Like many other kickers, Longo came to football through soccer. In fact, she told Channel 12 that it was a wildly off-target — but wildly powerful — miss on a penalty kick that helped her decide to play football. During that match in a club tournament in San Diego, Longo said, people in the stands held up their arms as if she'd just nailed a field goal.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.