Toni Harris Becomes First Woman at a Skill Position to Sign College Football Scholarship

On Feb. 26, Toni Harris made sport’s history by becoming the first female football player at a skill position to sign a letter of intent, accepting a scholarship to play at Central Methodist University in Missouri. Harris joins Becca Longo, Adams State University kicker, as the first and only two women to accept a scholarship to play football at a DII or higher level college. Though Harris is not the first female to sign a scholarship to play American football, she is the first female to play a contact position. Harris has been playing for East Los Angeles College according to ABC News. In her latest and final season at East Los Angeles College, Harris finished 2018 with three tackles and one tackle for loss. 

Toni Harris, raised in Detroit, began playing football at the age of 6, starting out at the wide receiver and cornerback positions in high school. After high school, her struggle came in finding a school that would allow her to play. "A lot of coaches didn't believe in me. 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 told ESPN

Harris is a girl who knows what she wants, and she is already looking to building the future that she and many other girls throughout the world want to see: equality in sports. "The NFL is the dream," Harris said. "I'm going to be working toward that until the death of me. Whether I go drafted or undrafted, I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep my faith and God is going to take me there." Like many collegiettes, Harris also has a fallback, if the future doesn’t go as planned. "If it doesn't happen, I can just pave the way for another little girl to come out and play—or even start a women's NFL," Harris said.  

The news of her commitment was announced on an emotional post on Harris’ Twitter page. Following her huge announcement, the support came in for her from fans, journalists and even NFL running back, and former Heisman Trophy candidate, Leonard Fournette.

In advice to girls looking to start a career in football, she says, "They don’t want females to play in this sport, and so if you want the chance, you do have to be so good they can’t ignore you, I don't let anything stop me. I don't take no for an answer," Harris says.

What makes Harris’ journey through college football history more impressive and inspiring is the fact that on top of all the adversity she has faced with football, she is also an ovarian cancer survivor. Diagnosed with the disease at 18, she gives credit to her family and her faith for getting her through the fight. 

For decades women have been shattering the glass ceiling in sports. With professional sports like the NBA creating the WNBA and the MLB embracing professional softball; for some time, it felt like the glass ceiling over American football would never be broken. However, it now looks like American football is finally headed in the direction of equality.