Kathryn Smith became the NFL's first female full-time assistant coach Wednesday, when the Buffalo Bills hired her as a special teams quality-control coach, a move she acknowledged as "groundbreaking" on the team's website (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
It undoubtedly was groundbreaking, but Jen Welter helped paved the way for Smith. Welter became the first woman to coach in the NFL when she was an intern with the Arizona Cardinals during their 2015 training camp. According to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, Welter was happy to see the NFL moving forward in terms of hiring women.
"I think it's an honor to know that what we did in Arizona has really changed the game for other women," Welter told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Smith, 30, started as an intern in 2003 with the New York Jets. She later became a college scouting intern and then a full-time administrative assistant in the personnel department. She was former head coach Rex Ryan's personal assistant before following him to Buffalo when he took the Bills coaching job in 2015.
Welter said it was a good sign that Buffalo hired Smith as a quality-control coach, per Weinfuss, because it "mirrored how a male could get his start in the NFL."
However, she did seem surprised by the hiring, considering she had a recent conversation with the Bills brass, per Weinfuss:
Welter met with Bills co-owner Kim Pegula and team president Russ Brandon at an Arizona Coyotes game Monday, when Welter was honored by the hockey team. She said she had a "good conversation" with them but said it was "interesting" to see Smith's hiring announced two days later.
Welter said she hoped she would've been hired by the Bills but said the prospect of being an NFL coach is "still not over for me."
Welter has not spoken to Smith but is glad she has helped make the path easier for women, according to Weinfuss:
I'm happy that I was essentially a lead blocker, and I always knew other women would follow. I'm good with that.
I did the impossible part, which was being the first female to coach in the NFL. And that, no matter what happens afterwards, is one of the greatest moments in the history of women in sports. ... I wanted to shatter the glass ceiling, and I did. I already created real change.
She has done that, but it sounds as though she's ready to do more.
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