ASU recruit interviewed on Good Morning America
ALAMOSA — Becca Longo isn't the first woman to play football.
But the senior at Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, made history when she signed a letter of intent to play football at Adams State University, an NCAA Division II school.
Longo, 18, is the first female to earn a football scholarship to an NCAA school at the Division II level or higher -- something she had no idea of until a signing ceremony Wednesday at her high school.
"I was completely shocked," Longo told CNN. "Everybody who has it on video said my jaw dropped to the floor."
The 5-foot-11, 140-pound kicker started playing football competitively her sophomore year. Knowing she wanted to kick in college, Longo sent video highlights to schools, including Adams State. She also began following Adams State head football coach Timm Rosenbach on Twitter, which got his attention.
"She's kind of put herself out there to let everyone know she wants to do this," said Rosenbach, former Cardinals quarterback. "If she's able to compete at a level we think she's able to compete at, we should afford her that opportunity to do that."
So he watched her film. Offensive coordinator Josh Blankenship then visited her in Arizona and expressed interest. Longo stopped by the university in February, "and I just fell in love with the campus," Longo said. And in Division II, Rosenbach said, prospective student athletes can work out on campus.
"I kind of put the ball in her court," the coach said. "She took advantage of that, and I was impressed, not only as an athlete but as a person."
Shortly after that visit, she was offered a scholarship.
"I was so emotional. I was just so grateful that somebody believed in me and that I could actually do it," said Longo, who will also play basketball at Adams State.
Coach Rosenbach said he’s never heard of a female being awarded an NCAA football scholarship. But he doesn’t think gender should play a role in whether someone can play at the next level.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Rosenbach said to the Arizona Republic. “My wife is a former pro athlete. I see her as a football player who earned it. It was like recruiting any other athlete. 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.”
According to ESPN, about a dozen women are known to have played college football, though none under athletic scholarship. But Rosenbach said he wasn't thinking about the historical aspect when he offered her a scholarship. It was her accuracy.
"It's hard to find good kickers," he said.
He added: "She's got great mental toughness. She has to, if she's put herself in this position. By having that mental toughness, she deserves an opportunity right there to compete."
According to Rosenbach, the kicking job is up for grabs heading into the season. And Longo sounds ready for that challenge.
"I'm going to go in, I'm going to be ready to compete," Longo said. "I'm not one to back down to anybody."
Longo will also play basketball at Adams State.
While she is still trying to grasp the historic significance of her scholarship, Longo has been fascinated with kicking for years. Her brother, Bobby, was high school teammates with Heidi Garrett, who in 2004 hit a 48-yard field goal for King High in Riverside, California. It is believed to be the longest field goal ever converted by a girl in a competitive football game.
"I looked up to her kind of how some girls look up to me now," Longo said.
Still, it took Longo until the spring of her freshman year of high school to give it a go herself. In 2014, she was the junior varsity kicker at Queen Creek High in Arizona but was forced to sit out her junior year after transferring to Basha High. During that time, she also suffered from a back injury that initially led doctors to believe she would never play sports again, but Longo made it out for spring football at Basha in 2016.
After winning the starting job on field goals and extra points -- she did not handle kickoff duties -- Longo converted 35 of 38 extra-point attempts last season and was good on her lone field goal attempt (30 yards). She said she feels comfortable on field goals from 45 yards and in, but her team usually went for it on fourth down because they had quarterback Ryan Kelley, an Arizona State signee, who was ESPN's No. 11-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country.
“Good Morning America” interviewed Longo live from Vista’s above the ASU gridiron on Friday morning. The segment aired on the east coast at 5:40 a.m. and was seen locally about 7:40 a.m.