Update, Jan. 21: Coach King has moved from "intern'' status to "full-time offensive assistant,'' as Ian Rapoport is first to note. Our profile on King:
Growing up in Reidsville, N.C., Jennifer King spent Sundays with her father watching Washington football games. The first Super Bowl they shared together was XXII, Washington’s second victory, when Doug Williams became the first African American quarterback to win a championship.
She didn’t know then what would be in store for her down the road.
“The main thing I want everyone to know is that I didn’t just pop up,'' said King, now an assistant coach for the Washington Football Team. "This is something that has been years in the making.''
In junior high and high school, the football coaches wanted her to try out for their teams. King’s mother was worried that her daughter would get injured, so Jennifer stuck with basketball and eventually became a star player at Guilford College.
Life was different prior to becoming an NFL coach, and the road to get there was far from easy. King gained the necessary experience by coaching middle-school athletes and eventually worked her way up to high school. She later took an assistant coaching job at Greensboro College and worked the day shifts as a police officer before driving to practices.
Focused on taking her skills to the next level, King played for the Carolina Phoenix in the Women’s Football Alliance, claiming two titles. She then went on to win a championship with the New York Sharks.
Friends and family thought she was crazy when she left her job as a police officer to become a coach, but King felt otherwise.
“I knew what I wanted, so I just stepped out in faith and did it.” King said.
King met Washington coach Ron Rivera for the first time while he was still with the Carolina Panthers. They both attended the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum, which is held every year in conjunction with the NFL Combine. The event gives women pursuing careers in football, the opportunity to get in front of NFL coaches and executives. It was at that event in 2018 that they were able to meet face-to-face.
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“It was extremely strategic how I approached him.” King joked. “At the time I was the head basketball coach in Charlotte, right across from his facility. I sat beside him at the round table and I let him know what I wanted to do.”
The rest was history.
A month after their initial introduction at the forum, Rivera came to speak with the athletes King was coaching at Johnson & Wales University. Again, this was right next door to the Panthers training facility. He extended an invite to the rookie mini-camp that was approaching and King gladly accepted. That earned her a spot as a spring and summer intern.
Between the two internships, she got her first full-time position as wide receivers coach for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football. Like many working their way into the NFL, there was no shortage of sacrifices along the way. Thanks to the Scott Pioli & Family Fund through the Women in Sports Foundation, King was able to keep pushing forward in pursuing her dreams as an NFL coach. The grant provides direct financial assistance to aspiring female football coaches and scouts who have demonstrated the potential to advance in their careers in college or professional football.
In December 2020, King showed her praise for the Women’s Sports foundation by supporting them through the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” campaign.
“I was in Arizona coaching in the AAF. Dartmouth had an open position and the grant allowed me to feel comfortable taking the job because it supplemented my income enough for me to get by.” King said.
When Rivera left for a new head coaching job at Washington, he brought King with him. In the end, following her dreams of coaching football paid off. She made history after becoming an offensive assistant and full-year coaching intern - the first Black woman to do so.
“There were times that were really tough. I wasn’t sure if I should stick to basketball where I was comfortable.” King said.
King pulls inspiration from coaches she’s worked with or been coached by along the way.
"This is something that has been years in the making. A lot of hard work and dedication. It was a decision to chase what I wanted and get out of my comfort zone. That’s the message I want to send to everyone. If it’s something that you really want, you have to find a way to make it happen.”
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