Jennifer King made history becoming the NFL’s first Black female assistant coach when the Washington Football Team elevated her to running backs coach.
The 36-year-old assistant understands the importance of the next step in her coaching journey.
“Representation means so much,” King said, via ESPN. “It’s really important right now to be a good representative, what I didn’t have growing up. I didn’t have anyone that looked anything like me working. To be able to see that, I think, is big. It’s super cool to be a part of this.”
King credits Katie Sowers, who served as an assistant for the 49ers for four seasons, and others for opening the door for her. Now she wants to do the same for the next generation of women coaches, but she doesn’t feel like a trailblazer just yet.
“I really think this is something that 10 to 15 years down the road you can look back on and I will feel the magnitude of it,” King said. “I’ve been working with the guys already, so it doesn’t feel a lot different for me.”
After spending three years as an intern, first with the Carolina Panthers, then in Washington, getting an assistant job was the logical next step for King.
Washington running back J.D. McKissic credited King pushing him in 2020 for his breakout campaign.
“I always thought she was already the assistant coach,” he said, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “She played a pretty good role in my success. … She helped me take that next step. It was just the little things like giving me a pregame workout, things that she did with [Christian] McCaffrey in the past in Carolina. She was able to bring that to Washington and push me in those types of ways.”
It’s been said countless times but bears repeating over and over again: Ultimately, most players don’t give a hoot about a coach’s gender. They just want to know that person will help them become a better player, win more, and earn that next paycheck. The rest is superfluous on the field.
King credits Washington coach Ron Rivera with her opportunity.
“It’s so important to have those people reach back,” King said. “They’re realizing that there are females capable of working in football at a high level, and they’re giving them opportunities. It’s that simple. It’s crazy. They’re just realizing that: ‘There are people out there that can help us, and they may not look like everybody else, but I want to give them an opportunity.’ I’m thankful for that, but super thankful for them having an open mind.”
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