Rebeca Landa remembers a text message she received in college that has been etched in her mind until this day.
“Women don’t talk about football,” it read. The message came from a well-known person and a fan of the sport she loved, which gave it even more of an impact.
“It didn’t square how someone who loved football would limit their own gender like that,” said Landa, a native of Puebla, Mexico, who at the time was a student at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla and was an announcer for the school’s football team, the Aztecs.
Landa used the negative comment as added motivation for her career in sports journalism.
“It made me realize that I needed to generate a cultural change through sports, attacking machismo, in both men and women, because women can be machistas too,” said Landa in an interview with Los Angeles Times en Español. “When I get those messages it just makes me stronger and makes me realize there is still work that needs to be done.”
After working at the campus television station through college, Landa did some work with the Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos. She has worked at ESPN Deportes since 2017 and last year made history as the first woman to call a "Monday Night Football" game on that network in a matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills.
This year she is still making history on that network.
Last week, ESPN announced the new voices for "Monday Night Football" for the 2023-24 NFL season.Landa will be the play-by-play announcer for ESPN Deportes telecasts on a team that includes color commentator Sergio Dipp, sideline reporter Katia Castorena and veteran broadcaster John Sutcliffe. They make their debut tonight with the game between the New York Jets and the Bills.
“My dream was to get to ESPN as an announcer. I feel like I had started off pretty well, but this is a huge step for me,” said Landa. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this and to keep learning.”
Landa started her university career in the arts, but she always liked football and decided to answer a casting call for announcers for the school’s television broadcasts in 2012. At that time, Landa didn’t have many female mentors in the field, but she focused on studying the game to ensure she could offer a different perspective to the telecasts. She moved from analyst to play-by-play announcer soon after realizing her passion for calling a game.
“When I started in the TV booth at the university, I realized there was an absence of women in my role,” said Landa. “I mean a woman that knows the sport, is passionate about it and has an opinion. I didn’t like how there was only one version of what a woman can do in sports.”
As her TV career was getting started, Landa also was balancing her participation in competitive flag football. At 16, Landa was introduced to the sport and has been selected to the Mexican national team since 2018 as a defensive player. The team won the gold medal in the world championships in 2022.
“I do what I love and that fills me with positive energy,” said Landa.
Landa has also called about a dozen XFL games and counts ex-NFL player Raúl Alegre as one of her mentors. She has also learned a lot from colleagues like Sutcliffe and Ciro Procuna.
As her confidence has grown with experience, Landa has developed her own style, according to Rodolfo Martínez, vice president of sports and international production at ESPN.
“Rebeca is a star on the rise behind the mic and we expect her to continue to grow as we enter into a new season,” said Martínez.
The ESPN crew will also count on Castorena, from Tijuana, as a sideline reporter. Castorena is one of the most versatile reporters at ESPN Deportes and made her debut on the telecasts last season after eight seasons as an NFL correspondent with ESPN. For Castorena, being part of the telecasts with Landa is special, given what it means to see two women on an NFL telecast.
“I remember when she joined the team at ESPN and we both worked together from the Mexico City offices. And today to be part of this new era together is motivating,” said Castorena about working with Landa.
For Castorena, being part of the "Monday Night Football" team is also special as she used to attend San Diego Chargers games as a girl with her father.
“This is a huge moment in my career, and it reflects positively on the years of work I’ve put in,” said Castorena. “I remember I would always see John Sutcliffe and would dream of one doing what he has done. Today, to have him as a colleague and a mentor is incredible.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.