TEMPE, Ariz. — History is made in many ways.
Sometimes, it’s by pure accident. Other times, it’s the result of a long process.
And every now and then, it’s simply long overdue. Such is the case for Dr. Jen Welter, who by all accounts will be the first woman to hold any kind of coaching role with an NFL team when she fulfills her internship with the Arizona Cardinals this training camp and preseason.
The significance of it all is not lost on anyone.
“She came over for OTAs, we met, and I knew this was the type of person that I was looking for to start this,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
“I think it’s great; I think it was going to be one of the 32 teams — I’m glad it was us,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said. “I spoke to Commissioner Goodell about it [Monday] afternoon and he was elated and said ‘Congratulations’ and was pretty excited about the fact that, so quickly, we’ve got a (female) NFL official and now an NFL coach who will be joining us through the preseason and training camp.”
And, finally, there is Welter herself.
“I didn’t start playing football to be here; I didn’t even dream that it was possible,” she said. “And I think the beauty of this is that though it’s a dream I never could have had, now it’s a dream other girls can grow up and have.”
Welter said she loved football from a young age, but was not really able to get into the sport until she was done with college. She comes to Arizona with 14 years of professional experience, having helped the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Football Alliance win four championships as well as earning a pair of gold medals with Team USA at the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013.
Most recently, she played running back for the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution in 2014 and then guided the same team’s linebackers and special teams in 2015.
So make no mistake, while her road to this point is one you may not be familiar with, she would not have gotten here without taking it.
Or help from plenty of people along the way, including Arians, who made sure to call Welter “a trail blazer.”
“That only happens with the best possible team, and that comes with the foresight of somebody like Bruce who, just out of the strength of his will, I would say that’s how it happened,” Welter said. “He told me when he offered me the job, ‘I want you to know it’s in my heart to offer you this internship — I don’t know yet if I can make it happen.’ He had to reach out and get all the right support. He had to have the support of a family like the Bidwills. He had to have a general manager with the foresight of Steve Keim to say yes. He had to get all of the right yesses, but it was his heart that made it happen, it was his belief that the Arizona Cardinals was the team that could handle this happening and that he had coaches on his staff that would embrace it, not cast me off to the side.”