LOS ANGELES – East Los Angeles College’s first-ever female football player — and one of few women to play at the collegiate level nationwide — will take the national stage this Sunday when a Toyota commercial featuring her story debuts during the Super Bowl.
Toni Harris, a free safety, dreams of one day becoming the first woman in the NFL. The 60-second RAV4 spot plays on the obstacles and criticism she’s overcome to make it as far as she has, depicting her using a mascara wand to put on eye black as a child.
A voice over from sportscaster Jim Nantz points out that people have made a lot of assumptions about her. “But I’ve never been a big fan of assumptions,” she says.
Harris, now a sophomore, began playing football when she was about 6 years old in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
In an interview on CBS’ “This Morning,” she said those around her weren’t “too fond” of her playing the sport and voiced concern she could get hurt too easily playing with boys.
“What motivates me most to play is people telling me that I can’t,” she said. “I love to prove people wrong.”
And that’s what she’s been doing since. In high school, she was selected as Homecoming Queen while also playing a big role on the field.
“It’s 80 percent mental and only 20 percent physical, so you have to have a different mentality to play the game football,” she told CBS.
The defensive back has been integral to ELAC’s success since joining the team in 2017, Head Football Coach Bobby Godinez said in a news release from the school.
“Toni Harris has shown great resolve in her journey and quest to be a college football player,” he said, adding that the team wished her “the best in her journey beyond ELAC.”
Harris, who’s also an honors student, has received several scholarship offers to further her football career but has yet to commit to a four-year team, the college said.
In doing so, she will become one of the first women on a collegiate roster not to play kicker, and could possibly be first to receive a scholarship, according to ESPN.
Last year, Harris tweeted that she had been offered a scholarship by Bethany College, a Division III team in West Virginia.
Adams State University, Graceland University and Kentucky Christian University have also made offers, according to Sports Illustrated.
At least 100 million people are expected to tune in to the big game on Sunday, which will pit the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots in Atlanta.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Godinez’s last name.