This story is about empowerment, true determination and grit with each ingrained in this epic tale of an Arizona young girl turned college student who decided to take on anything she wanted – including the literal field. For this young woman, playing sports was a passion. It did not make sense to her that due to the fact that she is a girl it would mean that she did not qualify or be thought of in the same ranking as the guys. She took it upon herself to train harder, perform better, and remain level headed no matter what was thrown her way. This story shows how one Arizona girl challenged all of the stereotypes about women in sports, all the while breaking record after record and taking it all in stride, including bullying and holdbacks. One girl is paving the way for many more to follow – meet Becca Longo.
Becca Longo was always athletic. When she was just four years old she could water ski without issue. When she was nine years old, Becca could kick soccer balls scoring goal after goal no matter who was there keeping it. Her older brother, Bobby, is 11 years older than her and also athletically inclined, playing as a defensive end on the football field. Bobby was one of the only people in Becca’s life who really challenged her.
When we say challenged her, we mean it. When the two were growing up they would go to Lake Pleasant in Phoenix. The two would swim into the middle of the lake and compete against each other.
There was one instance when Bobby threw a football at Becca while they were swimming, hitting her right in the cheek. Instead of crying her way out of the lake, Becca swam directly at her brother and told him that it wasn’t ok. Bobby was reminded that his sister was no pushover.
Years later, when Becca was in high school at Queen Creek High School, it was this very fire that had her star on the school’s basketball and soccer teams. It was also this very spark that made her upset when she realized that there were no women on the school’s football team.
Becca liked to go see the team practice and the more she went the more she wanted to be a part of it. Her athletic nature was something to behold. She decided she was going to do her research as to women in football in her area.
Football kicking camp
In order to make sure that this was not a one-off event, her school not having women on the football team, Becca decided to travel to Gilbert Christian High School, where a football kicking camp was taking place.
The state of Arizona had the very best football kickers come to the camp. When Becca arrived, her fears were confirmed – there was not a single girl on the field. The fact that there were no women made a real impact on Becca, who felt the fire in her start to burn and her ambition kick more and more into gear.
It was during the football kicking camp that Becca made an impression on someone who mattered, Alex Zendejas, a coach who lead others to great kicking careers. It was Alex who noticed how much power Becca’s kicks had, he saw the potential in her.
Alex worked with Becca three days a week to help her perfect her kick and get the full extent of her talent out there. Whenever Becca did not hit her mark, she would grab another ball and kick again. Her determination is just one of the many vital elements of what made Becca different from others.
After a while of training, Becca went to her high school’s athletic director’s office in order to ask to try out for the football team as their kicker. Unfortunately, the athletic director proceeded to laugh in Becca’s face.
That kind of mockery would be enough to make anyone walk away hurt, luckily for Becca, she took this as gasoline to the fire that was her passion and determination, making this yet another reason to succeed one way or another.
Working Harder To Prove Herself
Becca was asked what made her so stubborn to make it, and she responded with the fact that everyone thought that as a girl she would not be tough enough or able to handle the all-male surroundings.
Every time she heard people say she is not strong enough, or big enough, she would train that much harder and work her very best to prove everyone wrong. She did not let others doubt in her ability question her own.
As soon as Becca listed to her teammate, she kicked the ball and the rest was history. During that year of playing, Becca 30 out of the 33 extra points the team was aiming for. She even landed the year’s longest kick – 30 yards in total.
Her success on the football field had people cheering during games but during school hours, Becca started getting bullied for her place on the team. Queen Creek High School was becoming difficult.
Becca had to endure people talking about her as she was walking down the school’s hall. People started treating her differently.
Instead of cheering her on for being a minority in her sport in the best possible way, breaking barriers and showing the world that women are capable of anything, her fellow students seemed to be jealous of her abilities. Becca had thick skin, but even with that, she knew something had to change.
Becca was playing football for the right reason – because she loved the sport. In order to play the way she wanted to, she knew something needed to change for her.
The solution to her problem came in the form of school change. Becca decided to transfer to Basha High School. At Basha, Becca hoped that people would see her for who she was and that her football career could really have a chance at being noticed.
The one major downside was that due to her move, Becca would have to sit out one year of football. Instead of letting that get her down, she used that time to practice. This brought Becca to her senior year of high school.
It was then that she tried out for the team. The coach believed in her, but in order to have her other teammates on board, he knew that she would have to prove herself.
Time to show them
Football has a lot to do with mind control and being able to hold your own when in a stressful situation and for the coach at her new school, he knew he needed to see how she would perform under such circumstances. He also knew the players would need to see some hard evidence to back up Becca’s ‘rumored’ talents.
On one particular day, the coach gave her the opportunity to earn the respect she deserved and so he set her up in front of the rest of her potential teammates.
The day had come, it was time for Becca to show everyone what she was made of, and she could not wait to prove herself. The challenge was set, she had to kick in front of the whole team, beginning at the seven-yard line, having to move five yards back each time she kicked.
If she failed, the team would have to run sprints, everyone was curious as to how she would perform and for Becca, this one was of the most stressful situations she had ever found herself in.
She Showed Them
Becca was full of adrenaline, and unlike everyone watching, she didn’t have a doubt in her mind about how she would perform. With her belief alongside her skills, she made every single kick and even the 42 yarder didn’t scare her, she made that one to.
The coach was thrilled, explaining, “That was the moment that everybody just bought into Becca.” Now, the team looked at her as much more than just a girl on a football team.
In 2016, Becca was a senior at Basha High School, playing as the school’s football kicker when she earned her team 35 of the 38 attempted extra points. Those are some remarkable stats. Speaking of stats, hers caught the eye of some important people.
The most important of those people was Josh Blankenship. Josh was the offensive coordinator for Adams State College in Colorado. Adams is a Division II school and they just happened to be in the market for a kicker.
Becca tried out for the team, kicking 25 field goals in front of some important decision-makers. She thought she did not do well, making 23 of 25 but did not realize that the conditions she was kicking in were not ideal and everyone was very impressed.
Not only was Becca offered a position on the team, but she was also offered a full scholarship to the school. Becca was the first female athlete to get a football scholarship from a Division I or Division II school in history.
Respect, however, has to be earned anew. There were those who said she would be crushed on the field, and that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt for the school. Becca replied back with nothing more than a scoff.
She said that if people wanted to think that then they can just do so. She knew her skills and knew that being strong mentally was the only tool she needed in her arsenal.
Rising Above It
Her hopes that the scholarship would see her earn the respect she deserved did not quite work out. It is unfortunate that even with inspiring stories such as this, people still find something negative to say, with some writing their opinions on social media.
“She’s going to get drilled by a 300-pound lineman,” one person commented while another said, “She’s just a publicity stunt,” but for Becca, she learned a long time ago to rise above it, and that’s exactly what she did.
With her confidence (a very important characteristic to have in such a sport), Becca hit back with nothing more than a simple but very strong response, saying, “If they want to think that, they can think that,” she said.
“Then I’m just going to kick a game-winning, 55-yard field goal — see how loud they are then. I’ve been doubted in everything I’ve done. Being mentally strong is the only defensive mechanism I have.”
Taking Her Opportunity
As she developed her skills, working alongside a supportive team and coach, she continued to thrive and only got better. She worked harder than ever before, and although she had always trained every day, she had now extended her training hours and was becoming the talk of the state.
Everyone was curious and wanted to know who this amazing girl that was dominating and changing the football world.
First Woman In The NFL
As a freshman, Becca trained hard but was not on the field quite yet. She got better each day and was now able to kick a 54-yard goal. She proceeded to be in competition with other kickers, which only made her train harder.
Her teammates knew that she was serious and in it to win it. Eventually, she snagged the coveted role for the Adams State Grizzlies. Becca’s next move? To be the first woman in the NFL.