Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic
After receiving six college football scholarship offers, Antoinette "Toni" Harris has signed a letter of intent to play football for Missouri's Central Methodist University and made history while doing it. The 22-year-old is now "the first female skill position player to sign a letter of intent to play college football on a scholarship," Central Methodist said on its website. She will also become the school's first female football player.
Harris, a free safety and an honors student at East Los Angeles Junior College, is the second woman to receive a college football scholarship. Arizona kicker Becca Longo became the first in 2017 when she signed to play at Colorado's Adams State University.
"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 from CMU. "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."
That journey included growing up in foster care, being adopted at age 13, and overcoming ovarian cancer, which caused her to lose half her body weight after being diagnosed at 18. Harris went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from high school and attend college, plus the first woman to play on East LA College's football team.
"My biggest pet peeve is people telling me that I can't," NBC News reports Harris saying. "So I have to prove them wrong."
“I think my biggest pet peeve is people telling me that I can’t, so I have to prove them wrong.”— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 27, 2019
Meet Toni Harris, who just became the first female football player to get a scholarship to play defense at a four-year university. pic.twitter.com/Nxt5kdulI1
Harris' ultimate goal is to become the first woman to play in the National Football League. "If it doesn't happen, I can just pave the way for another little girl to come out and play -- or even start a women's NFL," Harris said.
Congratulations, Toni! Keep paving the way!