Katie Hnida: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Katie Hnida

First Female Professional Football Player

Katie Hnida is a pioneer in the world of sports, being the first woman to play, and score points, in a NCAA Division One football game. The struggle to get to that groundbreaking moment took eight long years, a journey filled with dogged commitment, horrifying setbacks, and finally, remarkable triumph.

Fate came knocking for the 14-year-old Hnida in the unlikely form of a torn thigh muscle -- an injury that would drive her off the soccer field in search of another outlet for her athletic talent. She found football and with it gender-defying success. The same day Hnida's high school classmates voted her homecoming queen; she donned her helmet and pads and kicked six extra points in the homecoming game. As a senior, she was named Colorado Sportswoman of the Year as well as Teen People magazine's "Number One Teen Most Likely to Change the World."

When Hnida is recruited to play for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, her great dream is realized, and she seems set for glory on a much larger stage. But upon arriving in Boulder, she begins a tour of hell inside the University of Colorado's football program, a hell that culminates in Hnida being raped by a teammate. It is here that the story truly begins.

Hnida is physically and emotionally devastated. She leaves the university and begins climbing her way back to who she was and what she wanted. She learns to speak about what happened to her and to push through harrowing flashbacks of violence. The very thing that drew her into the darkest days of her life will ultimately save her: football.

Hnida sends 80 kicking tapes to 80 Division I schools and is invited to visit several top football programs. But it is the blue-collar, no-nonsense team that wins her trust: the University of New Mexico Lobos. Under head coach Rocky Long, she continues her long road to recovery through hard work and the will to never give up. She is not only accepted by her teammates, she also finds herself part of a team that's a family.

In Albuquerque, Hnida is reunited with her dream. Under a true leader, she blossoms. Her teammates "are" teammates, supporting and encouraging her to reach her goal. And with just seven minutes and 20 seconds to go in a game against Southwest Texas, the history-making extra point kick is made in under two seconds, changing everyone's ideas about what is possible. Now her shoes and uniform are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 2004, Hnida spoke out publicly about the sexual harassment and rape she endured while at the University of Colorado. She now travels the country, speaking at colleges, women’s groups and other organizations to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence against women. Katie is involved with a number of a number of organizations that work to combat violence against women, including The Voices and Faces Project, The Joyful Heart Foundation, and is a founding member of Counter Quo, a pioneering group dedicated to challenging the way our culture responds to sexual violence.

Hnida also has a special interest in working with children. Throughout her life, she has served as a mentor to at-risk youth and spoken regularly at elementary, middle and high schools about chasing your dreams and overcoming adversity. She is the recipient of multiple awards for public service work, including the National Organization of Women “Women of Recognition” and the “Leadership Award” from Victims Rights Law Center.

In addition to speaking, Hnida is also the author of Still Kicking: My Journey as the First Woman to Play Division I Football, published by Scribner in 2006. Her writing has appeared in publications such as People and Cosmopolitan. Most recently, Her work was featured in the book “Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All

Hnida has appeared as a guest on numerous television shows including Larry King Live, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, ESPN, and Catherine Crier Live and has been featured in various magazines and newspapers including: TIME, Sports Illustrated, Glamour, People, Marie Claire, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post.

Hnida has continued her football career with the Colorado Cobras, the Ft. Wayne Firehawks and is currently kicking for the Koscuisko County Mustangs. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Psychology.

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  • My Journey as the First Woman to Play Division One College Football
  • Still Kicking: Surviving and Healing From Sexual Assault

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