Jen Welter made history in 2014 when she appeared at running back for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League, becoming the first woman to play a non-kicking position for a men’s professional football team. Now Welter is blazing a much more high-profile trail in football, as she is set to become the first woman to coach NFL players.
The Arizona Cardinals have hired Welter as an intern during training camp and preseason to coach inside linebackers. The 37-year-old, who has a PhD. in psychology, has played linebacker over 14 seasons in women’s football leagues.
“Coaching is nothing more than teaching,” Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com on Monday. “One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her.”
Welter’s hiring comes on the heels of Becky Hammon leading the Spurs’ summer league team to a tournament title. Last year, San Antonio made the Hammon the first full-time female coach in the NBA when the team hired her as an assistant.
Arians said (via AZCardinals.com) that he thought Welter “was the type of person that could handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door.” He added that the Cardinals’ veterans with whom he spoke beforehand “were all very cool with it.”
The Cardinals, under owner Michael Bidwill, have often been at the forefront of NFL diversity efforts. In 1978, they were the first team to hire a black female executive, and in 1981, they put the first black man in charge of contract negotiations. In 2004, Arizona became the first team to have black men as both coach (Dennis Green) and general manager (Rod Graves).