Honoring the Women Who Paved the Way to the NFL

Official Chicago Bears Reporter

by Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63

There are some that would say every day is International Women’s Day and in some way, they are right, but not based on the usual reasons. The struggle of gender equality has been going on for centuries but not surprising is the list of women who have overcome that. Eleanor Roosevelt once said:  “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

How true a statement that is! I come from a long line of strong women who persevered and overcame many obstacles. But today is a day to celebrate and honor just a few women who paved the way in the National Football League, which has always been a boys club.

Amy Trask – A California girl, Amy is a 1982 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and holds a B.A. in political science. While attending Berkeley, Amy became a fan of the Raiders. Soon after she decided to attend law school in Southern California, which happened to be the same year the Raiders moved to Los Angeles.

But it was in 1983 that Amy interned for the Raiders’ legal department. Four years later, she became the Chief Executive of the Raiders. She resigned in 2013 but currently serves as an analyst for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network appearing as a regular on That Other Pregame Show and occasionally on The NFL Today. If you see her make sure you say “HI”.

Dr. Jennifer Welter – She may stand at only 5′-2″ but Jen Welter stands tall in what she has accomplished in the game of football and further in the NFL. From 2001 – 2014, Jen played as a running back in several women’s professional and semi-professional football teams. But she will always be remembered as the first female football coach in the NFL. On July 27, 2015, Jen was hired as an assistant coach intern for training camp and preseason for the Arizona Cardinals. Welter graduated from Boston College with a master’s degree in Sports psychology, which includes a Ph.D.

In her book Play Big; Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL she writes:

“Greatness is not an accident. Greatness is a choice you make over and over. And when you choose personal greatness – big or small –  it becomes a part of who you are.”

Katie Blackburn – Nobody talks about her and she is ok with that. Katie has been the executive vice president of the Cincinnati Bengals since 1991. Her role began as the first female chief negotiator in the NFL. She prefers to be a behind the scenes kind of gal and an expert in salary-cap structure.

Sarah Thomas – The love of sports was in her blood. Sarah began her officiating career in 1996 after attending a meeting of the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. She worked her first game in a varsity high school game.  Her path to the NFL came when in 2006 she was invited by Gerry Austin, coordinator of Conference USA and former NFL official, to participate in an officials camp. She became the first female to officiate in the Big Ten, the UFL and now currently in the NFL.

Beth Mowins – Beth began her career in 1991 as news and sports director for WXHC-FM Radio in Homer, New York and due to her work was inducted in 2009 into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.  But it was in 2017 that Beth gained her ground-breaking status as she was chosen to be the play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, becoming the first woman to call a nationally-televised NFL game. She also became the first female play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS in it’s 58-year span of NFL regular season broadcasting.

Kathryn Smith & Katie Sowers – Kathryn began her internship for the New York Jets as a college scouting intern in 2005. Two years later she was promoted to player personnel assistant but that catapulted her to join the Buffalo Bills in 2015 as an administrative assistant. A promotion to special teams quality control coach came in 2016. She was the first full-time female coach in the NFL.

Katie broke into the NFL as an intern with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 under the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. She made such an impression on current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan that she was hired to be the full-time assistant coach working with the wide receivers.

And there you have it. Women who love football as much as the women right here on Our Turf Football. Oh, in case you were wondering…..we know routes.

Talk football with Wanda on Twitter // @WandaW63

#SmartWomen #SmartFootball


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