An NFL team is set to hire the first Black female full-time assistant coach in the league — and she’s from North Carolina.
Jennifer King, who currently interns for the Washington Football Team, is expected to be named a full-time coach for the organization, The Washington Post reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. King made franchise history when she became the first woman hired in any capacity as a coach last year, according to the Post.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport also reported on the impending contract, citing “an informed source.”
King is from Rockingham County, North Carolina, and previously interned for the Carolina Panthers under Ron Rivera, who was hired as Washington’s head coach in early 2020.
Rivera hired King in 2017 as the team’s first-ever female coaching intern, the Charlotte Observer previously reported. At the time, she was coaching the Johnson and Wales women’s basketball team, whose facilities were adjacent to Panthers’ practice fields.
“She knew the language, she could speak to the players, and really what was interesting was watching her deal with the young guys — how they gravitated toward her,” Rivera said at the Women’s Careers in Football forum in February 2019. “And I was really pleased about that.”
Since joining Washington’s coaching staff, NFL.com reported, King primarily works with running backs under coach Randy Jordan.
“First of all, she knows the game,” Jordan previously said, according to the Post. “It’s really helped me in terms of seeing the game in a different view. … When we first started, I leaned on her a lot in terms of the terminology and the different things. Then, the way she’s worked with the guys; she’s just Coach King to us.”
King grew up in Reidsville, about 15 miles south of the Virginia border, and graduated from Rockingham County High School, The Greensboro News & Record reported.
She played basketball in high school and went on to attend Guilford College, where she played softball and basketball and graduated with a degree in sports management.
“All those friendships that I’ve built from Guilford; I still talk to a ton of people I went to school with,” King said in 2018, according to The News & Record. “Guilford laid the groundwork for me for diversity, which is obviously huge in coaching.”
King helped coach the women’s basketball team at Greensboro College under Randy Tuggle, WCNC reported. She also played semi-professional football in High Point as a quarterback for the Carolina Phoenix in the Women’s Football Alliance.
Tuggle told WCNC he wasn’t surprised after she was hired as a full-time intern for Washington last year.
“She was doing it because she loved it. It wasn’t because she wanted to be the first African American female in the NFL,” Tuggle said, according to the TV station. “She was wanting to do it because it’s a passion of hers, and that’s what makes her special.”
Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, both with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are the only other full-time female coaches set to be in the NFL next season, CBS Sports reported. Offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers with the San Francisco 49ers has said she won’t return next season.
During a panel discussion at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in October, King said she didn’t envision working in the NFL because she didn’t see anyone else who looked like her doing it, The Robesonian reported.
She said it’s now important for her “to be a visual for those kids... to see someone that looks like them in a position that they can achieve.”
“You can get out and do great things, and just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean you can’t see the world and do things,” King said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve realized that people really respect that and I don’t take it lightly to represent Reidsville well.”