The NFL has historically been a boys game. Up until 2015, no female had ever held any position in NFL history. That all changed when Jen Welter was hired as an assistant coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals. Not only was this a big moment for Welter but it challenged the narrative of the NFL only being a place for men. We admire Welter’s perseverance and courage to pursue her dreams with the odds against her. She paved the way for other women like Jennifer King.
King always loved football and wanted a career on the gridiron. She is known for having a high football IQ and though she wanted to be a wide receiver, coaches put her at quarterback because of her deep understanding of the game. King joined the Carolina Phoenix of the Women’s Football Alliance in 2006 and became a seven-time All-American in 11 seasons. Between 2007 and 2016, she led her team to a 75-17 record and nine winning seasons. The Phoenix went undefeated in 2013, won the IWFL Championship, and Founders Bowl championship two years in a row. She was known as “Jet” by her fellow teammates because of her athleticism and skill.
Football has always been King’s passion, but she also coached basketball as an assistant coach at Greensboro College in Carolina from 2006-2016. During that time, the Pride had great success, going 136-54, winning five conference titles and appearing in the NCAA Tournament just as many times. Greensboro College head coach, Randy Tuggle, said “She’s a person that you can count on, someone that was constantly working with the kids to get them better. Things happen these days where nobody’s teaching anything. They’re just saying, ‘Go play.’ What made her a good basketball player is that she knew how to play, she knew the fundamentals, simple stuff that nobody teaches. That’s why she was very valuable to us.”
Although King had success as both a football player and a basketball coach, she believed she had to stick to basketball because women simply didn’t coach football. She went on to serve as the head basketball coach of Johnson & Wales University Charlotte between 2016 and 2018. Under her leadership, they won the 2018 United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship.
In 2018 to 2019, King was a part-time coaching intern for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. She also served as the wide receivers coach for the Arizona Hotshots in the Alliance of American Football and then spent time on the offensive staff for Dartmouth College.
Like Welter, King faced difficult challenges and beat the odds becoming the first female African American woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL. King was hired by Ron Rivera and the Washington Redskins as a coaching intern. King is incredibly proud of how far she’s come, “I’ve made it this far. Part of my dream is complete but the work doesn’t stop. I have more dreams, aspirations. And hopefully one day I’ll reach that goal.”
King wants to serve as inspiration for young girls, “For the little girls, that’s just what I want for them: To let them know, if this is what they want to do, they can do it,” King said.
Her ultimate goal is to be an offensive coordinator in college football or the NFL. To King, it isn’t about chasing a check but being able to do what she loves – coaching football for the rest of her career. Kudos to King and her triumph as the first African-American woman coach in the NFL.