Katie Hnida, the first woman to score in Division I-A football, falls seriously ill

Katie Hnida, who broke barriers in college football as the first woman to score points in Division I-A. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Katie Hnida, who broke barriers in college football as the first woman to score points in Division I-A. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Katie Hnida, the first woman to score points in a Division I-A college football game, is facing a major challenge: recovering physically and financially from a gravely serious illness.

Hnida, who kicked her way into the history books in 2003, recently had an adverse reaction to a commonly prescribed antibiotic. Some adverse reactions are as simple as a rash, but Katie’s was much, much worse. She was admitted to the ER when her blood wouldn’t clot, and doctors discovered that the antibiotic had caused multiple organ failure. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, her kidney, liver and bone marrow had all stopped functioning properly. She needed emergency dialysis, and doctors were even discussing a liver transplant.

Thankfully, Hnida is out of the woods.

But her illness has led to $155,000 in hospital bills and medical costs, and the total keeps climbing. She won’t be able to work for at least six months while she recovers and receives extensive rehabilitation. Since her insurance falls woefully short of covering those costs, Katie’s family has set up a GoFundMe to help her.

Hnida is no stranger to dealing with challenges and adversity. She began her college career in 1999 as a walk-on placekicker at the University of Colorado Boulder, and despite becoming the second woman to dress for a NCAA Division I game and the first to dress for a bowl game, she never saw any playing time. She left Colorado in 2001 and transferred to the University of New Mexico, but no one would know for several years what Hnida experienced before she left.

In a 2004 interview with Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, Hnida revealed that she had been harassed and molested by her former teammates at Colorado, and that one of them had raped her. She decided against pressing charges or even telling Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who told Reilly that neither he nor any other player wanted Hnida on the team. Since Barnett didn’t want her there, she feared she would be kicked off the team if she said anything.

Things were different at the University of New Mexico. She made the football team as a walk-on placekicker, and on August 30, 2003, she kicked two extra points against Texas State University to become the first woman to score points in a Division I football game. In 2004, she won a team award called the Beefmaster, given to five players each year who are the most improved in overall strength.

Since she graduated from college and her playing days ended, Hnida has taken her terrible experience at Colorado and used it to help others. She’s become an advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence, working primarily through nonprofits and often doing pro bono counseling for trauma survivors.

Katie’s family set up the GoFundMe with a modest goal of $20,000, well short of the $155,000 she needs. They’re counting on the kindness of strangers to help the woman who was a college football pioneer, and who has devoted her post-college life to helping people recover from serious trauma.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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