Jen Welter made history in 2015 when she became the first woman to hold a coaching position in professional men’s football, but the story of how she got there is truly unique.
In an interview with sportswriter Lindsay Gibbs for her newsletter Power Plays, Welter revealed that she cold-called the Arizona Cardinals posing as a male coach’s assistant in order to get the attention of the team’s higher-ups.
Welter was already a standout women’s football player, then in 2014, became the first female running back to play men’s professional football when she joined the Texas Revolution, a team in the Champions Indoor Football league, according to Gibbs.
She made coaching history for the first time in February 2015 when the Revolution’s then-head coach Wendell Davis hired Welter as a linebacker and special teams coach — making her the first female coach in professional football.
Just months later, over the summer, the Cardinals hired Welter as a preseason intern. She revealed to Power Plays that to get her foot in the door, she called the team’s main phone line and worked her way through various personnel, saying she was an assistant to the Revolution’s head coach Devin Wyman, and that he worked with a female coach who the team should consider hiring.
“Apparently I sounded really convincing, because I worked my way to Bruce [Arians]’s assistant Wes,” Welter told Power Plays.
Wes told Welter that Arians, then the Cardinals’ head coach, would be interested in taking her call. Two weeks later, Arians and Wyman spoke on the phone and Welter was invited for an in-person meeting in Arizona.
“At the end of our conversation, he essentially said, ‘I don't know yet if I can make this happen. I have to get a whole lot of yesses. But I want you to know, it's in my heart to try,’” Welter said. “He really just asked for me to trust him.”
While Welter’s time with the Cardinals did not extend beyond her internship, according to Gibbs, there have been at least 15 female coaches in the NFL since.
“As a first, the opportunity and the responsibility is to ensure that you're not the last,” Welter said of the experience. “It can't just be, ‘Is the door open for me?’ It's, ‘Is the door open?’”
“We’re showing the girls that there's no game they cannot play, and no field they do not belong in or on.”
And it appears her time with Arizona left a tangible impact on the coaching staff.
Last spring, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made NFL history by hiring two full-time female coaches. The team’s head coach? Bruce Arians.
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