After completing her internship as part of the San Francisco 49ers’ Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship on Friday, 31-year-old Katie Sowers is expected to become the second full-time female assistant coach in NFL history.
Sowers, who worked with the 49ers’ wide receivers during training camp, announced Saturday on her Facebook page that she has “accepted a season-long coaching position” on 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff. The team did not immediately confirm her hiring when reached by the Mercury News’s Cam Inman on Saturday.
Sowers would follow in the footsteps of Kathryn Smith, who was hired by Rex Ryan as the Buffalo Bills’ special teams quality control coach before last season. New Bills Coach Sean McDermott did not retain Smith on his staff when he replaced the fired Ryan. Two years ago, Jen Welter became the first woman to hold an NFL coaching position, when she was hired as a preseason intern to help coach the Arizona Cardinals’ linebackers. Welter’s internship ended after the Cardinals’ third preseason game and she was not hired to a full-time position.
“It’s groundbreaking and all that stuff, but the more normalized it is, the better it is,” Sowers told the Mercury News last week. “As a female, the more someone can ask me what I do and I say, ‘I coach football,’ the less shock on their faces will mean the better direction we’re moving.”
Sowers, who played professional football until a hip injury ended her career last year, also has served as the general manager and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Titans of the Women’s Football Alliance. She interned with the Atlanta Falcons last summer, when Shanahan was the team’s offensive coordinator. Shanahan didn’t hesitate when Sowers reached out about working with him again this summer.
“We were in Atlanta, and people asked, ‘Why did you want to bring a girl here?’ I didn’t even look at it that why,” Shanahan told the Mercury News. “She helped us there and asked if she could do the same thing here. Because of what she did in Atlanta, we’d love her to be here.”
In her Facebook post, Sowers thanked Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli for giving her an opportunity last year.
“Many people ask how I made it to where I am, on such an untraditional route and it’s easy to say ‘you have to believe in yourself and dreams will come true’ but that’s only part of it, and in my opinion that’s only the second part,” Sowers wrote. “It’s important for all to know that dreams are achieved by first finding someone who sees your worth and value, regardless of your gender, and takes the necessary steps to clear a path, even on the path less traveled. Those people are hard to find, but I was blessed to begin my journey in the NFL because of a close friend and mentor in Scott Pioli. Scott’s passion for equal opportunity and his belief in a small town girl from Kansas, allowed me the opportunity to follow my passion. Scott continues to do amazing work, opening doors and breaking down walls in the NFL that for years have shut people out. I think we could all learn a little from people like Scott Pioli and find a way to open doors for those behind us. The most important words you can ever tell someone is ‘I believe in you.’ Scott, I know the best way that I can repay you is by continuing to open the door for others and I will do my best to continue what you have started and what you continue to do.”