It was just a few seconds, quick enough that an ill-timed bite of pizza or a handful of chips would’ve distracted you from it, and yet the texts flooded the phone of Laguna Beach High’s Bella Rasmussen.
They mostly said the same thing: “Did I just see you in a Super Bowl commercial?”
For a month, she had been sitting on a secret. Since Rasmussen became the first girl in state history to score two touchdowns in a game last October, a local story went national and her life became a roller-coaster ride.
She secured representation to pursue name, image and likeness opportunities and in January she was invited to film a Super Bowl commercial sponsored by the NFL on the growth of girls’ flag football, popping in frame to run alongside Diana Flores, the quarterback of the Mexican national team.
Rasmussen had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. When the commercial aired at halftime, she was at the Super Bowl in Arizona, without any service. When she got a few bars, she was overwhelmed.
“It’s just such a crazy thing to me that that was seen by people literally all across the globe,” Rasmussen said by phone.
The growth of flag football for girls and women has been explosive, punctuated by a CIF vote to approve sanctioning it as a spring sport, and Rasmussen has been at the forefront in Southern California. And the theme of the commercial — Flores, and later Rasmussen, sprinting away to evade the tackles of a mass of people — is fitting.
From the time she was 6 years old and starting to play football, Rasmussen said, she had men yelling at her. Cursing her out. Telling her she shouldn’t be on the field.
She speaks with eloquence and a self-assuredness present in few high schoolers.
“I felt like I grew up really early,” said Rasmussen, now a senior. “Because a lot of the time, when I walked out on the football field, it was genuinely just me who wanted me to be there.”
Her experience at Laguna Beach, Rasmussen said, was revolutionary. For the first time, she felt like she had 10 others on her side to fight with rather than against. Since the day before the Super Bowl, when her agent previewed the commercial for her, she’s reflected on the perseverance of that 6-year-old girl, a teenager now running with a football in her hand on the screens of millions.
“It’s not just a big deal for me, but it really is a big deal for girls in football in general,” Rasmussen said.