Female college football player featured in Super Bowl ad gets scholarship at NAIA school

Yahoo Sports

Toni Harris, the football player featured in a Toyota ad that aired during the Super Bowl, has a college scholarship.

The East Los Angeles College free safety signed Tuesday with Central Methodist, an NAIA school in Missouri. Harris is believed to be the first woman at a position other than kicker to get a college football scholarship.

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"Toni Harris has shown great resolve in her journey and quest to be a college football player," East L.A. coach Bobby Godinez said in a statement via NBC 4 in Los Angeles. "She has shown herself to be a great teammate here at East Los Angeles College and a great member of this community. We all wish her the best in her journey beyond ELAC."

Harris was first offered a scholarship to play football after East L.A. College by Bethany College in January 2018.

East Los Angeles College free safety Toni Harris signed Tuesday with Central Methodist. (Screengrab)
East Los Angeles College free safety Toni Harris signed Tuesday with Central Methodist. (Screengrab)

Harris is first female player at East L.A.

Harris is a native of Detroit and has played football for East L.A. for the past two seasons. She was featured in the Toyota ad, in part, because of her childhood and the odds she’s beaten to become a college football player. Harris lived with multiple foster families since her mother put her up for adoption at the age of 4 and considers the woman she’s lived with since the age of 15 as her guardian mom.

“Fifteen was the last home I was in with my guardian mom now,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “It was official Oct. 6 of 2011. I remember that because that was the last person I was with.

“My mom’s been in my life the whole time I was adopted, so I consider them both really close to me. My mom has some things to get together. I had people that were set to take me in, so I’m close to both of them.”

Harris told the Free Press that she met her father three years ago.

She was the first girl to play football at her high school and played junior varsity football as a junior. Per the retelling in the Free Press, she was removed from the team before her senior season and only reinstated after her guardian mother signed a form that said she wouldn’t sue if Harris got hurt playing football that season.

“She had real good speed and she picked up on things fairly quick,” assistant coach Rob Rankin told the paper. “You didn’t have to show her things 100 times. She was a very good athlete. Athletically she did the things right and would pick up on the movements and everything. I’d seen some aggression, but that wasn’t her thing. She was more of a technician.”

Becca Longo got a scholarship from a D-II school

Women have played college football before, but typically at the kicker position. Katie Hnida became the first woman to score a point in a Division I college football game when she kicked an extra point in 2003 while playing for New Mexico. At that time, Hnida was the third woman overall to score a point at any level of college football.

Becca Longo signed with Division II Adams State in the spring of 2017 and received a partial scholarship. Her signing with Adams State was believed to be the first time a female player had signed a letter of intent with a top-tier school out of high school.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow Nick on Twitter.

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