Nine years ago, Dr. Jen Welter became the first woman to coach in the NFL, where she was apparently able to ruin sports for men by making them better. After entering the sacred male space that is training camp with all of her estrogen and evil feminine energy, she paved the way for more women to do the same. But despite her credentials, Dr. Welter had to pretend to be someone else to get an interview with an NFL team, she recalled in an interview with Lindsay Gibbs’s Power Plays.
Welter, like most football coaches, began her career as a football player. She first made history in 2014 when she became the first woman running back to play for a men’s professional football team, the Texas Revolution. In 2015, Welter joined the coaching staff of the Revolution as a special teams coach—another first at the professional level.
That same year, Welter made a phone call to the main office line of the Arizona Cardinals office. But instead of calling as herself—a champion athlete and doctor—Welter posed as an assistant for Devin Wyman, head coach for the Texas Revolution at the time. She was transferred from person to person, still in character, saying that there was a woman coaching football at the professional level, and Bruce Arians should consider hiring her. “Apparently, I sounded really convincing because I worked my way to Bruce’s assistant Wes,” Welter explained to Power Plays. Two weeks later, Arians invited Welter to Arizona for an in-person meeting.
Welter was hired to work with the team during training camp and the preseason as an intern on the coaching staff. Coincidentally in 2015 and 2016, the Cardinals finished first and second in the NFC West Division, respectively, which may or may not have anything to do with the preseason boost offered by having Dr. Welter on staff. When asked about breaking through the NFL’s glass defensive line, if you will, Welter told Power Plays, “As a first, the opportunity and the responsibility is to ensure that you’re not the last. It can’t just be, ‘Is the door open for me?’ It’s, ‘Is the door open?”
Dr. Welter left the door plenty open for those who wished to follow her. Since 2015 there have been more than 15 women who’ve worked in a coaching capacity within the NFL. Just this May, ESPN reported the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired two female coaches, Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar. Locust is an assistant defensive line coach, and Javadifar is an assistant strength and conditioning coach—positions that would have been impossible to achieve without the first strides of Dr. Welter and Sarah Thomas. While the NFL continues to be a polarizing gatekeeper of what is allowable in the sports world, women like Welter, Thomas, Locust, and Javadifar are working to effect change from this inside. Now, if only women could collectively figure out a way to ruin sports by getting rid of Robert Kraft.