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Toni Harris: Proof That Women in Sports Demand Your Respect, Not Your Help

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Courtesy of @_toniharris via Instagram

NFL Ambassador, SAG actress/stunts, singer, first-ever female college FB safety.

And that’s just her Instagram bio.

Antoinette Harris, Detroit native and Central Methodist University alum, is the first woman to receive a full college football scholarship as a non-specialist. She’s also the second woman to play football on scholarship in history. It’s safe to say that she paved the way for the female athletes who are making a name for themselves today.

Haley Van Voorhis recently made history as the first woman to play a non-kicker position in an NCAA football game. Leilani Armenta is the first female HBCU player. Even prior to Toni Harris, Liz Heaston was the first woman to score in a college football game, kicking two extra points for Willamette University in 1997.

Courtesy of @sportscenter, @espn, @espncfb, and @espnw via Instagram

Toni knew she was destined for a career in football when she was just 4 years old, watching her cousin play for the Detroit Police Athletic League. She began making a name for herself by playing at Redford High School in her hometown, Detroit, Michigan.

After graduating, she moved across the country to California where she not only became the first woman to play football at East Los Angeles College, but also the first woman to play free safety. Here, she received 6 offers to play at various 4-year universities, but she ended up choosing Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice. She’s currently working toward her Master’s in Criminal Justice at the University of Southern California (USC).

Courtesy of @_toniharris via Instagram

Toni has certainly garnered attention with her love and skill for the game, thus giving her the opportunity to spend the day training a team of female Western New York athletes who aspired to play flag football. Here, she was able to take on the animosity surrounding boys and girls in football.

“‘I’m very honored to be asked to come here and help out the next generation of female football players,’ Harris said. ‘Just being able to help out and coach all of the players with the boys and girls, and give them wisdom on what could help them get to the next level by telling them the struggles I had to go through and tell them what they can do to overcome that'” - Toni Harris for Buffalo News.

None of this is to say that everything came easy for Toni. When she was 18 years old, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo 16 chemotherapy treatments to cure it. On top of that, she’d been dealing with cysts since she was just 9 years old. But in true Toni nature, she never let that get to her head. She continued to pursue her dreams and beat all odds. And we know today that Toni won the fight.

Courtesy of @_toniharris via Instagram
"Anytime I can get my story out there and inspire a new generation of athletes, whether it’s male or female, I’m willing to do it," - Toni Harris for Buffalo News.

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