METAIRIE (WGNO)– A year ago, it would’ve been tough to imagine a woman on the sidelines in an authoritative position, in one of the most testosterone-filled professional sports. But Dr. Jen Welter, made headlines becoming the first female to coach in the NFL as the inside linebacker’s coach for the Arizona Cardinals in the 2015 pre-season. She was one of 7 interns added to the staff by head coach Bruce Arians, and after 14 years of playing professional football as a linebacker, she was comfortable in the role. Along side Sarah Thomas, the first female ref for the NFL, breaking gender barriers in a male dominated profession is becoming the norm.
Welter is still in disbelief of what she has accomplished, remarking that if you had asked her a day before she got her position as coach if women would ever coach in the NFL, she wouldn’t have believed it possible. Her biggest take away is that the men in the NFL are underrated.
“Everybody wanted to say oh my gosh would men in the NFL respect a woman in football? In fact they loved it! They’d be like ‘aw man coach we watched your highlight reel you were a beast off the edge, I loved the way you played'” Welter recalled.
Welter graduated from Boston College with a masters in sports psychology and a PhD in psychology. She grew up playing tennis in Florida but does not know where her love for football came from.
“My family is not a football family, so everybody imagines that I had all of these brothers, or my dad watched football every Sunday. My dad is a war hero who raced cars, like none of it makes sense! Football was just my destiny” remarked Welter.
Football may be her destiny but her mission is to make all women believe in what they can accomplish.
“All of my friends were cheerleaders they’d be like Jen you should cheer, you’d be such a good base and I’m like ‘what you want to step on my head?'” Welter joked with WGNO reporter, Meghan Kluth . “It’s not a glamorous life you know, the first check I ever got for playing women’s football was literally $12 and it was after I won my first super bowl, and yet it was the most valuable thing I could have ever gotten because it was the difference between amateur and being a professional” said Welter.
Women’s tackle football is one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now. 224 women from 17 different countries attended practice last week at the Saints facility and Sunday’s competition for the 3rd Women’s World tackle competition. In response to how she processes becoming a legend in the world of football she said; “the thing I love about this most now is that now every girl and every woman can look at an NFL sideline in a slightly different way and think ‘You know what? Someone did that and maybe I can do what she did.'”
She is grateful to the Saints for hosting the women this week. “I challenge every football team out there to step up their game and do what the Saints did, and open their doors to women in football.”
The Saints will be holding another competition in April.
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