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Arizona Cardinals hire first female coach in NFL history: Jen Welter

Jennifer Welter participates in a drill during practice, Feb. 13, 2014, in Allen, Texas. (Photo by Cal Sport Media/AP)
Jennifer Welter participates in a drill during practice, Feb. 13, 2014, in Allen, Texas. 

The Arizona Cardinals just made one of the biggest splashes of the NFL off-season.

Dr. Jen Welter, a collegiate rugby player who played 14 seasons of pro football in the Women’s Football Alliance, was picked by head coach Bruce Arians as a training camp intern to coach the teams linebackers, becoming the first women to hold a coaching position in the history of the NFL.

“Coaching is nothing more than teaching,” Arians said in a statement Monday. “I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her.”

Despite not having any ties to the NFL, Welter has an extremely long history with football. A graduate of Boston College with a master’s in sport psychology and a PhD in psychology, Welter became the first woman to play in men’s professional football game in a non-kicker position in 2014 when she took the field for the Texas Revolution – a team in the Indoor Football League. After her debut, she went on to be an assistant coach for the Revolution.  

Welter is also a two-time gold medal winner playing for Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013.

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The Cardinals announcement comes at a time where women are becoming more involved in men’s professional sports. Just last year, the San Antonio Spurs made Becky Hammon, a former WNBA All-Star, an assistant head coach of the team. Hammon most recently led the Spurs to the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League championship and is now gaining traction around the NBA as a “serious” head coaching candidate.

Also earlier this year, Sarah Thomas was named the first full-time female official in NFL history after refereeing for 19 years – eight of them in college football with the Conference USA.

In a tweet Monday night, Welter said she was “honored” to be a part of the Cardinals.

Welter’s first game as a coach will be on August 15th when the Cardinals take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the first preseason game.