(Jen Welter photos courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
Talk of Fame Network
We have women in executive positions throughout the NFL and within the league office. We have female trainers. We our first female official. So how long before women break the barrier and become full-time NFL coaches?
“I don’t think it’s as far as you might think it was,” Jen Welter told the Talk of Fame Network on its latest broadcast.
Welter should know. She was hired last summer by Arizona coach Bruce Arians as the NFL’s first female coaching intern, a job she enjoyed so much that she said, “I have nothing but great things to say” about Arians, his staff and his players.
But that was one summer’s work. A full-time assistant’s position is the next hurdle. So the obvious question is: When does that happen ... for Welter or any female?
“If you listen to Bruce Arians,” Welter said, “he said he would love to have me back. Would Bruce Arians, one of the best minds in football, say that if we were years and years apart?
“I think he was quoted once as saying, ‘She took an opportunity and exceeded expectations by 1,000 percent.’ Some people see that internship and think: Oh, my gosh, it was just an internship. But the guys I was interning with had an average of nine years of NFL experience. So how far off can it possibly be?
“There are women who are high-school football coaches right now. So whether it’s me or somebody else, there are women whose knowledge and level of the game are better than people really know. It just takes the right person to see that and believe it and go after it like Bruce did with me.”
Welter, who played men’s football with the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution before coaching the team’s linebackers and special teams, made national headlines when she joined Arizona. But she did more than that. She believes she made an impact on the Cardinals, too.
“I think they were all very proud of how well we did with the situation that outsiders didn’t think was possible,” she said. "But also the thing I would like to say is I received very good advice from a good friend of mine, (former NFL receiver) Terry Glenn. He coached with me at the Revolution, and he would come out to help our receivers.
“Terry’s a very introverted person a lot of the time, and so when he says something it usually has a big impact. And Terry said, ‘Jen, my best advice I can give you is: Be 100 percent authentic. Be exactly the person you were here with us, and those guys would love you. Because if you try to be anything you’re not … if you try to change yourself … they’ll sense it, and they’ll eat you alive.’
“So with those guys I was myself. I’ve known NFL guys for years and years, and I always thought it was so important that they were appreciated not just as players or for performance statistics but also for the people within the pads. I took that approach, and I took it very seriously. And I said a lot of little things that my guys would know how cared for they were.
“I think the biggest story that I probably never would’ve told anybody if one of my linebackers hadn’t is that before the first preseason game – and, actually, before all the games I was with them -- I wrote them all notes. It was just personal stuff, stuff that we’d gone over in the week -- (like) be the leader that you are; step up, take your destiny; play and live in the moment … all those things just to have a moment of quiet and confidence just before taking the field.
“And it was hugely impressive and just amazing that (linebacker) Kevin Minter shared that with media and said how it was something he never experienced in his whole career and how much it meant to him to have that. That was pretty huge.”