April 17, 2017
Several women have played football at the college level for years now. Most of these young women were walk-on players, or players with no scholarship.
In 1997, Liz Heaston became the first woman to ever play and score in a college football game when she scored in a game for Willamette University, in Oregon, a then-NAIA-level university, in a 27-0 win over Linfield College, in Oregon. Heaston kicked two extra points, and her jersey hangs in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Two years later, Katie Hnida became the first woman to suit up for a NCAA Division I (now called the Football Bowl Subdivision) school at the University of Colorado. In 2003, she became the first woman to score in a Division I game at New Mexico State University. She became the first woman to try an extra point in a bowl game the year before, but an opposing player blocked it.
Before Hnida, Ashley Martin became the first woman to kick an extra point at the NCAA Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) level for Jacksonville State University. She made three extra points without a miss in a 71-10 win over Cumberland University.
Former University of West Alabama kicker Tonya Butler became the first woman to kick a field goal in 2003 when she kicked a 27-yard field goal in a 24-17 win over Stillman College.
Other women have been kickers at nearly every level of college football. Some did get a chance to kick for their teams, and others were never called upon.
It hasn’t always been easy for women playing college football. Hnida alleged that she had been sexually assaulted while at Colorado. She didn’t press charges, but the incident became a major scandal at the schools, as other women spoke out about being sexually harassed and assaulted by members of the football team.
In 2014, Shelby Osborne became the first woman to play a position besides kicker when she became the first college defensive back at NAIA school Campbellsville University, in Kentucky. NAIA schools don’t hand out athletic scholarships.
Last week, April 14, 2017, Becca Longo became the first women to sign a national letter of intent to play college football. Longo will kick for NCAA Division II Adams State University, which is located in Colorado.
She is the first woman at Division II or higher to play college football on scholarship. The other kickers and players who made history didn’t receive a scholarship.
Each year, it is becoming more common for young women to play football at the high-school level.
As it becomes normal for them to play football in high school, it will become more common to see them at the college level. One day, a young woman might quarterback a college football team at the NAIA or NCAA Division III level of college football.