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Courtesy of the Washington Football Team.

Jennifer King: Breaking barriers in the NFL

UNM reacts to first Black woman to coach football full-time

The Washington Football Team made history on Jan. 26 when they announced that Jennifer King was promoted to assistant running backs coach, making her the first Black woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the NFL.

Prior to her stint in Washington, King was an offensive assistant at Dartmouth College, interned during multiple offseasons with the Carolina Panthers and was a seven-time All-American quarterback and wide receiver playing for the Carolina Phoenix, a women's tackle football team, from 2006-17.

During the 2020 season, King worked as a full-year coaching intern and is credited with helping develop the team's running back corps with the offensive staff and running backs coach Randy Jordan. Under King and Jordan, Washington's running backs totaled 423 rushing attempts for 1,697 yards and 20 touchdowns.

King's promotion helps further diversify leadership not only within the NFL but in the game of football as a whole.

"I think it's a heck of an opportunity for her to show everybody what she's capable of," Washington head coach Ron Rivera said at the time.

When asked about when she learned of the promotion, King said she was in the middle of preparing for the next game. She said there was initial excitement but then immediately went back to game preparation.

The Daily Lobo reached out to members of the University of New Mexico community to see what they had to say about King's historic promotion.

Former Lobo football player Katie Hnida, a history maker in her own right, expressed admiration for King and feels like she's done great work in the league.

"I really admire her a lot, and what I'd love to do is shake her hand and talk with her about her experience," Hnida said.

LaMisha Harvey, president of UNM's Powerful Movement of Educated Sisters (PMES) student organization, said she felt King gives young Black girls someone to look up to.

"I feel that it's a milestone and an inspiration," Harvey said.

Laura Bowerman, an associate head coach for UNM's cross country and track and field teams, said she believes King's achievement was necessary.

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"I think it's great for inclusion and diversity in sports," Bowerman said. "I think that's something that is needed in a multitude of fields."

Ned James, a former UNM quarterback and NFL assistant coach, acknowledged that how a female coach like King will be treated in an overwhelmingly male environment depends on the organization and the expectations they have.

"I'm sure she understands that there's going to be some guys who are not necessarily fond of her being there, and she's going to have to adjust to that," James said.

Hnida said there's always a risk when one is a minority, no matter the field, but highlighted that times are changing.

"A lot of these younger guys have grown up more with the idea that women are going to be around and coming into spaces that are traditionally male occupied," Hnida said.

King said she doesn't feel like a trailblazer at the moment, but it will be something to talk about later on down the line.

"I really think this is something that 10 (or) 15 years down the road we can look back on, and I'll really feel the magnitude of it. For now, I really don't," King said in the press conference announcing her promotion.

Teams shouldn't limit themselves by not considering women for positions if they truly want to have the most qualified coaches, King continued.

"I think it's so important just to open up the entire pool of applicants when you have a position," King said. “So far, historically in football, it's only essentially 50% of the pool. No women are ever considered."

When asked about the impact she hopes to have in the NFL, King said she views her promotion as a "foot in the door" moment for more female coaches to enter the field in the future.

Harvey, the PMES president, said King's accomplishment is impressive given the racism that still stubbornly pervades the United States.

"There are a lot of components to being a successful Black woman here in (the U.S.)," Harvey said. "There are extra obstacles to overcome just to get to the same place as someone else, and fear is generated by a lack of exposure and knowledge."

Harvey said she hopes that King will ultimately be recognized by her coaching abilities instead of her gender and race.

When asked about representation in the NFL, King said that its impact on younger generations can be huge.

"Essentially, right now we're what we didn't have growing up," King said in January after breaking yet another glass ceiling in the sporting world. "I think that's something that we don't take lightly. I know I don't."

Jesus Mata is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @JesusMataJr99

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