Former Dartmouth assistant coach Jennifer King becomes first Black woman to serve as full-time NFL coach

by Will Ennis and Vikram Strander | 2/9/21 2:05am

jennifer_king
Source: Courtesy of Washington Football Team

On Jan. 26, the NFL’s Washington Football Team announced the promotion of former Dartmouth offensive assistant Jennifer King from a full-year coaching intern to the assistant running backs coach, making her the first Black woman to serve as a full-time coach in professional football history. 

King is among a number of trailblazing female coaches with Dartmouth ties. Former Dartmouth football offensive quality control coach Callie Brownson currently serves as the Cleveland Browns’ chief of staff, and former Big Green softball player Bianca Smith ’12 became the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball history last month.

King said that she felt gratified to see her work pay off with the promotion.

“[There was] a lot of hard work and years and years of coaching and grinding that has come to a head now [and] allowed me to get this position,” King said. “It's been wild seeing … all the love that I've gotten just because of the historical hire.”

After joining the Dartmouth coaching staff as an offensive assistant for the 2019 season, King mostly worked with the wide receiver core and created scouting reports for the team. In that season, she helped Dartmouth post a 9-1 record en route to an Ivy League Championship.

“[Dartmouth] helped a lot,” King said. “It was another stop along the way. And being with another program, Coach [Buddy] Teevens was awesome. The staff was awesome, the players were awesome. And it was just a really good experience for me.”

Prior to her time at Dartmouth, King received her B.A. in sports management from Guilford College and a master’s degree in sports administration from Liberty University. She also amassed experience through her 13-year career playing professional women’s football with three different teams in the Women’s Football Association from 2006 to 2019. At the NFL level, King held two internships with the Carolina Panthers under Ron Rivera, now the Washington head coach, in 2018 and 2019.

Having worked with Rivera previously, King felt equipped to take a job under him at Washington.

“I feel extremely comfortable following [Rivera] to Washington after being able to work with him and build a relationship with him in Carolina, just because I knew it's the type of culture he wanted to build,” King said.

Dartmouth football head coach Buddy Teevens talked about the impact of King’s recent hiring on his team and the program's excitement at her success.

“The guys were very excited … really ecstatic and very, very proud that Dartmouth was in some regards a launching pad,” Teevens said. 

Football player R.J. Brandon ’22 echoed that he and the rest of the team were excited by King’s hiring.

“I'm just very happy for [King],” Brandon said. “It just proves that regardless of gender, or race, or any outside factors, the best the people who are qualified and know a lot about football and work hard should be hired.”

Teevens said he was happy to see the landscape of football coaching start to change at the pro level. He said the NFL, unlike many teams at the college level, has fostered an environment that has allowed more women to start coaching.

“You look at the number of college football programs, and it's really very, very few women involved in the coaching aspect,” Teevens said, noting a “paucity of opportunities” for women beyond “behind-the-scenes” roles. 

Although she is new to her position, King has already started to look ahead and set goals for herself and her team for the upcoming season.

“Just, you know, make our running back room the best in the NFL,” King said.

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