The Arizona Cardinals made NFL history by naming Jen Welter an assistant coaching intern for training camp, serving as a major breakthrough in coaching circles across every major American sport. Welter will work with the Cardinals inside linebackers when training camp opens Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians told reporters during an introductory press conference Tuesday that Welter’s addition is all about helping former players join the coaching ranks.
“It is the stepping stone to get a coaching job. These internships, we probably had over 150 applications – college coaches, but more so former players, because former players are not hearing about what we do here. This is a full-time, six-week job and a job interview.
"I can think back already, Marcel Shipp and Daylon McCutcheon, who were interns with us our first and second years, both got hired by [former Arizona defensive backs coach and current New York Jets head coach] Todd Bowles and are full-time coaches now. So this is what we’re trying to accomplish, is get former players in the coaching pool.”
The 37-year-old Welter has experience both on and off the field, most recently acting as a linebackers and special teams coach with the Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football league. Back in Feb. 2014, Welter became the first woman to play a non-kicking position for a men’s professional football league when she served as a Revolution running back and member of special teams.
Welter even claimed four Women’s Football Alliance championships with the Dallas Diamonds over more than 14 years as a pro linebacker.
It’s a significant moment for the NFL and women in sports overall, and comes on the heels of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and their hiring of former WNBA star Becky Hammon.
“I wanted to open that door,” Arians said to AZCentral.com . “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. The one thing I’ve learned from players: all they want to know is ‘How you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t (care) if you’re the Green Hornet. I’ll listen.’
“I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity through this internship to open some doors.”
As one of seven interns with the team this summer, Welter will work beside Arizona’s linebacker staff of Bob Sanders and Larry Foote, as well as fellow intern Levon Kirkland, who was named the inaugural recipient of the two-year Bill Bidwell Coaching Fellowship, named after the Cardinals owner.
Though Arians also said the Cardinals intern programs are different then the league-instituted Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, which serves as a tool for minority candidates to gain coaching experience, its likely Welter’s duties will fall in line with that program.
During training camps, offseason workouts, and minicamps, candidates are given opportunity to observe, participate, gain experience, and eventually gain a full-time coaching position in the NFL, according to the program’s official website.
Other than Arians, Welter gets the opportunity to work beside two highly experienced coaches. Foote, who retired after leading Arizona with 105 tackles over 15 games last season, was one of the best at the position for 13 years and claimed two Super Bowl titles.
Sanders has 37 years of coaching experience, with 15 years served in the NFL, and has worked all along the defensive line for Oakland, Green Bay, and Buffalo.