Women will be making NFL history this Sunday in Cleveland.
When the Washington Football Team and Cleveland Browns take the field in Week 3, it will mark the first regular-season game in NFL history that features female coaches on opposing sidelines and a female official on the field.
With the honors are Jennifer King, a full-year intern with Washington, Callie Brownson, the Browns’ chief of staff, and NFL official Sarah Thomas.
All three women have already made football history in their own right.
King became the first Black female to coach in the NFL once being hired by Washington this past February. The opportunity came after interning with the Carolina Panthers the prior two seasons under coach Ron Rivera and she currently works with the running backs in Washington.
Ahead of her NFL coaching career, King was a quality control coach at Dartmouth College and also served as an assistant receivers coach and special teams assistant for the Arizona Hotshots of the short-lived Alliance of American Football. King’s football experience was also gained on the gridiron as a seven-time All-American quarterback and receiver for the Carolina Phoenix of the Women’s Football Alliance from 2006-2017.
Brownson became the first woman hired as a full-time NCAA Division I coach at Dartmouth ahead of the 2018 season, preceding King as their quality control coach. Brownson was hired as Cleveland’s chief of staff this past January after holding internships with the Buffalo Bills as a coach and the New York Jets as a scout. Her coaching career started at her high school alma mater as an assistant coach for Mount Vernon and she also gained experience on the gridiron in the Women’s Football Alliance where Brownson was a four-time All-American for the D.C. Divas from 2010-2017. Brownson also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management at George Mason University.
Both King and Brownson got their first coaching gigs through the NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum, a league diversity program launched in 2017.
Thomas became the first full-time female NFL official in 2015 and is considered a pioneer. Thomas holds many firsts, starting in college football when she became the first female to officiate a major college football game, a bowl game and in a Big Ten stadium. She was also the first to officiate in a Division 1-A high school football game in Mississippi, which is her home state. Thomas, who also became the first female to officiate in an NFL playoff game, currently works as an NFL down and line judge.
As the NFL continues to open doors for women in the league, Sunday’s game will be the first of many where their presence inspires the next generation.
[Article by Michael Baca]