Jen Welter is changing the shared idea that American football is a man’s sport. In doing that, she became the first female coach in NFL history for the Arizona Cardinals in 2015.
In an interview with FanNatinon, Welter looks back on why she fought so hard to make women noticeable in American football.
History of Welter and football
Welter’s love for American football started when she was young, watching games and thinking that the players were like “real-life superheroes.” She loved watching football games, but she also says that was the first time she had ever noticed “there was a difference between what girls were allowed to do and [what] boys were allowed to do.”
So, to continue her love for the sport, she turned to rugby. Rugby is a sport she feels is the closest to football that women were allowed to play. This inevitably led her to flag football leagues and an open tackle league for females. Welter won two gold medals playing for Team USA. She was inducted into the Women’s Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
After her gold medal wins, she would fight harder to get into men’s football leagues. She played as a running back for the Texas Revolution, an all-male indoor football league for one game only. She also was the first female non-kicker to play in a professional men’s football game. After this, Welter became the linebackers coach for the Texas Revolution.
As for her becoming the linebackers coach, Welter was hesitant. She originally declined the offer given to her by Wendell Davis, the Revolution head coach. Welter told Davis when he originally asked her to coach that “girls don’t coach football.”
The next day Davis called her again and told her that not many guys would give her this opportunity, so she had to take the job.
Later on, in 2015 Welter became part of Bruce Arians’ training camp coaching staff with the Arizona Cardinals. Not only was the head coach excited for the emerging diversity in the sport, but the players were as well. They were excited to be the start of changing the male narrative around football.
The hiring of women coaches in the NFL didn’t just stop with Jen Welter. Many coaches hired women assistants and interns, and the Cleveland Browns even hired Callie Brownson as their chief of staff.
Women in the NFL have been popping up more and more in the last six years, and Jen Welter can be the woman to thank for that.