Female defensive back receives scholarship offer from NAIA program

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

A bit of college football history was made earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Antoinette “Toni” Harris received a scholarship offer to play football for Bethany College, an NAIA program in Kansas. If Harris, a safety for East Los Angeles College, a junior college in California, accepts the offer, she would be believed to be the first female scholarship football player at a position other than kicker in college football history.

There have been female college football players before, but mainly as kickers, and not on scholarship. Most recently, Becca Longo signed to kick for Division II Adams State last year. Before that Katie Hnida was a kicker for Colorado and New Mexico in the early 2000s.

From ESPN.com:

In 2014, cornerback Shelby Osborne signed with Campbellsville University in Kentucky, an NAIA school, but it’s unknown if she received a scholarship.

Last April, Becca Longo, a kicker from Arizona, became the first woman to sign a letter of intent to play college football at the Division II level or higher. Longo is a freshman at Division II Adams State in Colorado, where she is playing for both the football and women’s basketball teams.

Several women have kicked for major college teams, including Katie Hnida at Colorado and New Mexico, and April Goss at Kent State, but none received scholarships to come to school.

Harris, a native of Detroit, told ESPN she intends to remain at East Los Angeles for the 2018 season before continuing her playing career at another school. Bethany, which can offer partial scholarships and academic aid for athletes, is certainly in the mix, but she said “a lot of other schools are interested.”

“My ultimate goal is to excel at a four-year [university] and become the first female NFL player. I know I can get there,” she said.

East Los Angeles finished its season with a 7-3 record in 2017.

Hnida, a walk-on who began her career at Colorado, was the first woman to score in an FBS game when she kicked two extra points for New Mexico in 2003. In 2001, Ashley Martin became the first woman to register a point in an FBS or FCS game when she made an extra point for Jacksonville State. Prior to Martin, Liz Heaston was the only other woman to score in a college football game when she kicked for Willamette University, an NAIA program, in 1997.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!