Cardinals' new female intern breaks gender ground

Jen Welter, a former college football player who played 14 seasons of professional gridiron, will make history as the first woman coach in the NFL when she takes up an intern position with the Arizona Cardinals (AFP Photo/Win Mcnamee) (Getty/AFP/File)
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  • Bruce Arians
    Bruce Arians
    American football player and coach
  • Jennifer Welter
    Jennifer Welter
    American football player

Los Angeles (AFP) - Jen Welter, who played 14 seasons of professional football, will make history as the first woman coach in the NFL when she takes up an intern position with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals announced the hiring on Monday, saying they added Welter to their staff as a coaching intern during training camp and pre-season.

She is thought to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL.

"Coaching is nothing more than teaching," Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians told the team's website. "One thing I have learned from players is, 'How are you going to make me better? I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.'

"I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her," Arians added of Welter.

Welter holds a master's degree in sport psychology and was the first female to play a non-kicking position in a men’s pro football league when she was a running back and on special teams for the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution in 2014.

Welter also won two gold medals playing for Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013.

Welter, who is to be introduced at a news conference Tuesday, was an assistant coach of the Revolution this year.

After Arians said during the NFL owners' meetings in March that he believed women coaches would break into the NFL "the minute they can prove they can make a player better" the coach of the Revolution got in touch.

After meeting her, Arians said, "I thought she was the type of person that could handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door."

Arians said he had spoken to veterans on the team about Welter's hiring and "they were all very cool with it".

"It's not going to be a distraction in any way," the head coach said.

The move is another small step for women in men's pro sports.

The NFL has hired Sarah Thomas for the 2015 season as the league's first full-time female official.

Becky Hammon, an assistant coach for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs last season, served as head coach for the Spurs' developmental summer league team and led them to a championship.

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