On Thursday afternoon the New York Jets announced that they plan to hire Collette Smith of the Independent Women’s Football League as a preseason intern who will work with the team’s defensive backs this coming season, according to multiple reports.
Smith, 44, who played three years for the New York Sharks in the aforementioned women’s league, has been a coach and marketing executive for the team since retiring after sustaining a knee injury.
Smith will be the first woman to coach for the Jets in franchise history and is just the second in NFL history, following in the footsteps Jen Welter, who was hired by Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians in 2015 as a preseason intern for the team.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles is an Arians disciple, and in addition to playing for Arians in college at Temple, Bowles was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator under Arians from 2013-14.
Smith, as luck would have it, also happens to be a die-hard Jets fan and a New York native.
“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith said, according to the New York Daily News. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”
While Smith recognizes the enormity of her accomplishment and what it means for women in sports, she is also looking forward to the day when a woman being hired by a professional sports team is a non-story.
“This is a way for me to help empower women. Don’t dream small, play big and go for it,” Smith told the New York Daily News. “One day a woman will come to a football team, and it won’t be a big story. It’ll just be football. When that day comes I’ll be more honored and even more proud.”