Female College Football Player Gets Full Football Scholarship After Cancer Battle

Toni Harris, who survived cancer at age 18, just signed a letter of intent for a football scholarship

Toni Harris, a female college football player who survived cancer at age 18, just received a historic scholarship to play football at Central Methodist University in Missouri.

Harris, who is currently a free safety for East Los Angeles College, had six scholarship offers and announced her final decision in an emotional news conference on Tuesday.

With her announcement, Harris became the “first female skill position player” to receive a college scholarship, according to a statement from CMU. (Becca Longo, a kicker, was the first female football player to ever receive a college scholarship, in 2017.)

“Excited to announce I have committed to CMU to further my academic & athletic career,” Harris wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, alongside photos of her announcement.

Harris appeared on the Today show on Wednesday, where she spoke about the adversity she’s faced throughout her life.

“They don’t want females to play in this sport,” she said, “and so if you want the chance, you do have to be so good they can’t ignore you.”

“I always tell people that the game is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical,” Harris continued. “I still have to build my mentality more every day because the next level gets harder and harder.”

Harris lost half her body weight when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 18. The setback didn’t discourage her — and Harris maintains that her goal is to play in the NFL one day.

“My family helped me stay grounded, and my faith,” Harris said of staying strong during her cancer recovery. “I did want to give up, I thought things were over … but I said, ‘You know what? I’ve fought through everything else in my life.'”

Harris added that she hopes she can inspire younger girls. “They can make their own legacy and create names for themselves,” she said, adding, “because I believe the future is female.”

“Toni Harris has shown great resolve in her journey and quest to be a college football player,” Bobby Godinez, who coached Harris at East L.A. College, said in the CMU statement. “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.”

In January, Harris spoke to People Now about her goal to become the first female to play for the professional league.

“I’ve had this dream ever since I was younger,” Harris explained. “I do feel a lot more pumped now since I have the platform to show coaches that I have the talent and the potential to play at the next level, the collegiate level and the NFL level, so I’m ready.”

Harris also made her Super Bowl debut as well, partnering with Toyota to highlight her story in their big game commercial.

“I was getting ready for a game … and I all of a sudden heard my phone beep,” Harris told PEOPLE. “I saw a message saying that Toyota wanted to interline my story with the Rav4 they were using for the Super Bowl this year and I was like ‘Wow! What!'”

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