Antoinette “Toni” Harris may have just become the first woman ever in college football to receive a football scholarship. Harris, a safety for East Los Angeles College, received a scholarship offer to play football for Bethany College, which is an NAIA program in Kansas. Her offer was announced via her Twitter account, and ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg confirmed the offer with Bethany’s coach.
Harris, a native of Detroit, told CBS Los Angeles that she got kicked off one of her childhood teams because she was a girl. She eventually played other sports, but she picked up football again once she got to high school:
In high school she was named homecoming queen and admits she likes dresses more than pants. That might be one of the reasons people constantly tried to talk her out of playing football. “All the time. They still do. People tell me like ‘oh it’s cool you play football… but you’ll never make it… and you shouldn’t be doing it.’ ”
Harris played just one season at East Los Angeles, so she’s got a few years left of eligibility a the collegiate level.
“A lot of coaches didn’t believe in me,” Harris said via ESPN. “A coach told me nobody’s ever going to play you to be at the next level. In the end, you’ve got to push yourself. I’m going to focus on my goals.”
Harris is listed as 5’6, which is small for a typical safety, but her size doesn’t hold her back.
“We were absolutely interested,” Bethany head coach Paul Hubbard said via ESPN. “She definitely has the skill set. We’re always looking outside the box or inside the box to find players. We watched her compete against the kids out there.”
Last spring, kicker Becca Longo signed with a DII school and may have been the nation’s first woman to ever earn a scholarship from a program. A few other women played college football even before her, though.
Harris has dreams of playing in the NFL one day. Getting this scholarship offer is one step closer to that goal.