- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Last year, when Randy Jordan was one of the lone holdovers from Jay Gruden’s staff, the Washington running backs coach found himself relying on his intern. But rather than asking her to fetch coffee, print papers or any other stereotypical cliche that title conjures, Jordan kept asking Jennifer King about the offense.

King, a full-time coaching intern, had experience working with coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina. And with a new scheme to master and teach, Jordan wanted to know the ins-and-outs of the system.

“I leaned on her a lot in terms of the terminology and the different things,” he said.

King impressed Jordan and the team’s players and coaches throughout the season. And on Tuesday, Washington rewarded the 36-year-old with a promotion: naming her to a full-time staff position as assistant running backs coach — making her the first Black female coach in the NFL.

King is the second woman working in the league as a position coach, joining Tampa Bay’s Lori Locust (assistant defensive line). Cleveland’s Callie Brownson and Tampa Bay’s Maral Javadifar are also full-time strength and conditioning coaches.

In a statement, Rivera said King “demonstrated all of the qualities” of a coach and was well-deserving of the new role.

“She is a hard worker, a great communicator and a quality person,” Rivera said. “Coach King is always eager to learn and has shown tremendous growth since starting here last season. … The sky is truly the limit for her.”

To get to this point, King traveled from stop to stop, working her way up the coaching ladder. Before joining Washington last year, King served as an offensive assistant for Dartmouth College and as an intern with the Carolina Panthers, where she previously worked with Rivera in 2018 and 2019. She also has experience in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF), spending time with the Arizona Hotshots as an assistant wide receivers coach.

Her coaching experience extends beyond football. From 2016 to 2018, King was the head coach of Johnson & Wales University Charlotte women’s basketball team — guiding them to the USCAA Division II national championship. Before that, she served as a basketball assistant with Greensboro College.

But it was King’s firsthand knowledge of football that helped her break into the NFL. 

For 12 seasons, the North Carolina native played quarterback and wide receiver for the Carolina Phoenix in the Woman’s Football Alliance. She continued to play in the league even after breaking into coaching, joining the New York Sharks and D.C. Divas in 2018 and 2019.

King met Rivera for the first time in February 2018 at the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum. Hiring her that spring, Rivera said he realized that women coaching was an “untapped source” of talent.

With Washington, Jordan said King helped him see the game “from a different perspective.” She worked closely with the team’s running backs, helping Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber.

“The way she’s worked with the guys; she’s just Coach King to us,” Jordan said in December. “Her input throughout the game, there are things I may not see, and she’ll point it out to me. … Her input is very, very important not only to me, but to the entire staff.”

King’s promotion is the latest step Washington has taken to diversify its organization. The franchise is the only team in the NFL to have a minority coach (Rivera), general manager (Martin Mayhew) and team president (Jason Wright). All three hirings came within the last 12 months.

On Twitter, Washington posted a video of tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King congratulating King on the news.

“In a new history-making job, you will inspire generations of children because if you can see it, you can be it,” Billie Jean King said. “As our new Vice President Kamala Harris says, she’ll be in her new role, but she won’t be the last. The same holds true for you. So I’m so happy for you. Keep going for it.”

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