Antoinette ‘Toni’ Harris: First Woman Skill Position Player to Earn Football Scholarship
History was made on Feb. 26 as the first female football player (non-kicker) signed a letter of intent for a scholarship with a four-year college football program. Antoinette “Toni” Harris is currently a safety for the East Los Angeles College football team. She will elevate to the Division 2 level as she signs with Central Methodist University.
A 5’7″ safety, she completed two seasons at East Los Angeles College before being offered a scholarship by Central Methodist, a Division I NAIA college in Missouri.
Harris is the first female skill-position player (non-kicker) to sign a letter of intent. Last year Becca Longo, a kicker at Adams State in Colorado, became the first woman to sign a letter of intent to accept a football scholarship from a college at the Division II level or higher.
In 2014, cornerback Shelby Osborne signed with Campbellsville University in Kentucky, an NAIA school, but it is not known if she received a scholarship.
“A lot of coaches didn’t believe in me,” Harris told ESPN. “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.”
She has excelled as a safety, even surprising her teammates and coaches at ELAC by her strength in the weight room and her speed.
“Toni Harris has shown great resolve in her journey and quest to be a college football player,” Bobby Godinez, who coached Harris at East LA College, said in a statement released by the school. “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.”
According to ELAC, a two-year junior college, Harris chose Central Methodist over five other colleges, which included Bethany College, a NAIA school in Kansas.
“I feel like I keep doing what I’m doing and keep having faith in God, I can keep paving the way for little girls everywhere,” Harris told the Detroit Free Press. “I believe I’m going to be the first female NFL player. But if it just so happens that I’m not, I want to make sure there’s a way paved for the next little girl that can get there.”