Jennifer King never set out to be the “first” of anything. She just always wanted to be the best.
That motivation and hustle took her all the way to the NFL when she joined as assistant coach for the Washington Football team, making her the first African American female assistant position coach in the league’s history. King is also only the second female assistant position coach in the NFL behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust.
Though it seems almost impossible that we’re still witnessing so many diversity “firsts” in major league sports, King is confident that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The Reidsville, North Carolina, native’s rise to prominence is a classic lesson in persistence. After graduating with a degree in sports management, King got an assistant coaching position for the Greensboro College basketball team, where she spent nine years. She also played football herself during that time for several Women’s Football Alliance teams, which only deepened her love for the sport.
She eventually obtained a head coaching position for the Johnson & Wales University women’s basketball team in Charlotte. She was coaching there when she was introduced to then-Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, to whom she expressed her desire to coach football. Rivera invited King to come intern for the team, and her time with the Panthers made her certain that was the job for her.
After interning with Rivera once more, this time with the Washington Football Team, King eventually was hired full-time as assistant running backs coach in 2021.
King says she’s proud to help kick in the door for women in the NFL, but on a day-to-day basis, says she never feels excluded or “othered” as a Black woman in this male-dominated sport.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Jasmine Grant