TEMPE, Ariz. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have hired Jen Welter to coach inside linebackers through their upcoming training camp and preseason.
The Cardinals say Welter is believed to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL. Welter played running back and special teams in 2014 for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League, becoming the first woman to hold a non-kicking position for a men’s professional sports league.
“I am honored to be a part of this amazing team,” Welter said on Twitter on Monday night.
Welter coached linebackers and special teams for the Revolution last season, becoming the first woman to coach in a men’s pro football league. Her general manager with the Revolution was 2015 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Tim Brown.
Welter played linebacker for more than 14 seasons in the Women’s Football Alliance, mostly with the Dallas Diamonds, where she helped the team win four championships. Welter holds a master’s degree in sports psychology. A rugby player at Boston College, she also earned two gold medals on Team USA at the International Federation of Football Women’s World Championships in 2009 and 2013.
“I think it’s time,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said, according to Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB. “I am not afraid to step out and be different. Jen is a quality coach. She has earned this. I think she can help our players get better.”
A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday to introduce Welter and Levon Kirkland, a former Pro Bowl linebacker who is the inaugural participant in the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship established to give recently retired NFL players a chance to coach in the league. He will work with outside linebackers for the next two seasons.
Four months ago at the NFL meetings, Arians was asked about the possibility of a woman coaching in the NFL.
“The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired,” Arians said.
Speaking to azcardinals.com on Monday, Arians said: “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. 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, I’ll listen.'”
“I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her,” Arians said.
It’s the second such barrier to be broken in the NFL this year. The league announced in April that Sarah Thomas would be the first woman to be a full-time NFL official.
In the NBA, Becky Hammon is an assistant coach with San Antonio and served as the head coach for the Spurs’ team that won the Las Vegas Summer League championship.
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