Feminist History-Makers: “Football is What Makes Me Breathe”

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

What do an honor-roll student, an honorable mention as an all-county high school football kicker, a homecoming queen, a survivor, and a writer have in common? As if someone took all the members of The Breakfast Club and rolled them into one person, Katie Hnida is a woman who deserves to be honored. Colorado named her Sportswoman of the Year while Teen People Magazine declared her as one of America’s “20 most influential teens.”

Sports Illustrated once quoted Katie saying, “football is what makes me breathe.” A varsity football player at Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colo., Katie went three for three in field goal attempts and 27 for 28 in extra point attempts in her senior year. Invited as a walk-on at the University of Colorado, in 1999 Katie earned a spot as a place kicker for the team, becoming the first woman ever to suit up for a bowl game. In 2002, Hnida transferred to the University of New Mexico, where she made the football team as a walk-on. Katie became the first female to score in a NCAA Division I FBS football game. Her shoes and uniform are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Being a groundbreaking woman in an all-male sport had its drawbacks; Katie endured both verbal and physical assaults from her own team mates while playing for the University of Colorado. Teammates exposed themselves to her, grinded up against her, felt her up during team huddles, and one even raped her. But Katie, a true survivor, persevered.

Katie has toured all over the U.S., telling her story in hopes of eradicating violence against women, and she accepted a Woman of Courage Award at the 2005 National NOW Conference. To hear more about her story, check out her book, Still Kicking: My Journey as the First Woman to Play Division One College Football.

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