LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A local football player who dreams of becoming the first woman to play in the NFL is now starring in an ad that will air during the Super Bowl.
Antoinette “Toni” Harris shines in Toyota’s ad for its new RAV4. The 22-year-old sophomore from East Los Angeles Community College says in the commercial, which shows her bench pressing and flipping a tire, that she has “never been a big fan of assumptions” – and she has a track record to prove it.
Harris started playing football as a young girl in Detroit, but she said she was eventually kicked off the team because she’s a female. She tried gymnastics and cheerleading, but she was determined to play football.
“I guess it’s the passion I had for it,” she said in 2017.
Harris finally got her chance in high school.
“I’m getting a little emotional about…the fact that [my coach] gave me a chance and believed in me, it put so much joy in my heart,” she said.
However, the naysayers continued to discourage Harris.
“People tell me like, ‘Oh, it’s cool you play football, but you’ll never make it, and you shouldn’t be doing it,'” she said.
The obstacles didn’t stop with football.
Harris was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer at 18. She conquered cancer, but there was no guarantee she’d play college football.
Her hurdles are echoed in the ad. Sportscaster Jim Nantz says in a voiceover, “They said she was too small, they said she was too slow, too weak. They said she’d never get to the next level, never inspire a new generation, never get a football scholarship.”
Harris – who plays free safety at East L.A. and tackles men well over 6-feet tall and 200 pounds while she’s 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds – will be the first-ever female non-specialist football player to be offered a full scholarship.
USA Today reports she is considering four scholarship offers from Adams State University, Bethany College, Graceland University and Kentucky Christian University.
“I feel like anything that comes my way, I can overcome it, and that’s probably why I’ve overcome so much stuff in my life,” Harris told CBSLA less than two years ago.
Harris’ ad airs Feb. 3 during the Super Bowl on CBS2.