At a signing ceremony at her Arizona high school Wednesday, Becca Longo was caught off guard when she heard what her football coach told those in attendance: To the best of his knowledge, Gerald Todd said, Longo was the first woman to ever sign a letter of intent to play college football at the Division II level or higher.
Todd's research appears to be spot on. There have been about a dozen documented women who have played college football, but none of those who played for NCAA-affiliated programs were on scholarship.
"I didn't know that until today," Longo said. "I'm still in shock from it. I'm just amazed."
Longo, 18, said she signed with Division II Adams State in Colorado several weeks ago -- after the Grizzlies announced their 2017 recruiting class -- and will also play basketball at the school.
Todd's brother, Everett Todd, who is now the defensive coordinator at Grambling State, was an assistant coach at New Mexico in 2002 when Katie Hnida, a kicker for the Lobos, became the first woman to appear in a Division I college football game.
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.
Longo reached out to Adams State during the season but didn't hear back until it was over. Eventually, an assistant coach came by the school, which led to an official visit in February. While on campus, she kicked in front of the coaching staff and did well enough to earn an offer. She committed March 4 and, a few weeks later, committed to the basketball team as well.
"It was like recruiting any other athlete," Adams State coach Timm Rosenbach told the Arizona Republic. "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."
Longo knows there will be a lot of competition for playing time when she gets to Adams State. The Grizzlies signed kicker Tiago Paim in February and have a returning sophomore Eduardo Majalca on the roster.
"I'm ready to compete," Longo said. "I don't really have any expectations beyond that."