In January 2021, Jennifer King made history as the first African American woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL.
We studied both of these programs to examine the unfolding of King’s career, and to learn the traits necessary to become a history-maker.
“I fell in love with football at a very early age,” King recalls.
It all started at the YMCA, where King would spend countless hours playing sports. She developed a stellar work ethic that followed her to highschool, where her basketball team was hailed as one of NC’s best.
Senior year, her team made it to the state championship, where they were highly favored to win.
What could have been a grand finale to King’s youth basketball career however, ended in what King considers her first failure.
“Failure is something super important that we have to address in life,” King says. “Take those lessons from that failure, and then find a way to move on and put it behind you, because you can’t look back.”
Fast forward, and King graduates from Guilford College after 4 years of playing basketball and softball. “Like any college graduate I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I had the opportunity to coach,” King explains.
She took on the role of assistant basketball coach at Greensboro College, and for the next 9 years, she would split her time between coaching and working as a police officer.
“Finally one day, I decided to take a leap.”
King’s career is, as we’re sure her time on the field is too, filled with leaps; usually in the direction opposite of her comfort zone.
Despite her success in basketball, King heard football calling her name. But, as she tells ESPN, “I didn’t [see] anyone that looked anything like me working.”
She decided to pave a new road for herself, from the court to the field. She broke ground in 2017, when a networking call landed her a seat at the NFL’s Women’s Careers In Football Forum next to Coach Ron Rivera.
“I’m here because I had a random conversation 3 years ago with Coach Rivera in Florida at a table,” King says.
She continues, “I think it’s so important to network, sometimes when you don’t need it. I try to find one person every week… to try to introduce myself to increase my network.”
It was Rivera who called King with a coaching opportunity at the Washington Football Team. King not only answered that call, but, just as importantly, she was ready for it.
“If you have goals, aspirations and wishes, you have to prepare yourself to receive them because you never know when that moment’s going to happen,” King says.
In other words, stay ready… and keep in mind Coach Rivera’s words, as King recites them: “be where your feet are.”
“You get your next move by being the best in whatever position you’re in,” King elaborates.
As for King’s future? “Right now, I’m really just focused on being the best assistant running back coach I can be, and making our running backs group the best in the league,” she tells us.
We’ll stay ready for it.
The Washington Football Team’s first preseason game of 2021 is on August 12th, away versus the New England Patriots. To view their full schedule for the 2021 season, click here.