Opportunity comes with being at the right place at the right time, something that Arizona Hotshots assistant wide receivers coach Jennifer King knows well.
“A lot of people want things, but they’re not ready when it’s time to receive it, and I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned is make sure you’re prepared for the things that you want,” King said.
Growing up, King’s mother never allowed her to play football, but it was a family affair to go to high school, college, and NFL games in the area.
“In middle school, and in high school, the coaches always wanted me to play but my mom was not having it,” King said.
After she graduated college, a friend reached out about the chance to play in the Women’s Football Alliance, a professional women’s tackle football league. She started with the Carolina Phoenix where she played quarterback, wide receiver and safety.
King knew she wanted to coach football, but with slim chances to pursue that path, she opted for an assistant basketball coaching job at Greensboro College before shifting to the head coaching job at Johnson and Wales University in 2016. On the side, she continued to coach the gridiron at the middle and high school level.
At the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, King received an invite to attend a career forum hosted by the NFL. There, she had the opportunity to network with NFL coaches, like Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
“I let him know where I was and if they had an opportunity. He said we can get you over.”
It was what she’d been waiting for— an opportunity to get into coaching professional football.
King’s JWU office was a stone’s throw from the Panther’s training facility. She was invited back for rookie minicamp, training camp, and the preseason.
“The Panthers situation, it let me know that I wanted to coach football permanently,” King said.
Her next opportunity arose when Head of Football Development Hines Ward initially reached out to King to come to the Alliance to coach. He’d received a stack of resumes from the NFL of females that had the caliber to coach, and King’s name was one that stuck out.
“I’ve never dealt with a female coach or had a female coach me in any form but just her knowledge about the game was what stood out to me,” Ward said. “She knows her stuff, especially playing the wide receiver position.”
Head of Football Development Hines Ward meets with Jennifer King at Arizona Hotshots training camp in San Antonio. Photo By: Angela Denogean
During the interview process, Ward said he reached out to Carolina Panthers assistant wide receivers coach Jerricho Cotchery, whom King had worked under during her intern coaching stint with the Panthers. Cotchery vouched for King that she knew what she was doing and that the opportunity to coach in The AAF would be a phenomenal opportunity for her.
“We’re about diversity in our league and having that opportunity,” Ward said. “You talk about players having the opportunity to revitalize their career or start their career. It’s the same for our coaches.”
Around the league, Atlanta Legends defensive specialty coach Dr. Jen Welter and Birmingham Iron defensive line assistant coach Lo Locust are the other female coaches that the Alliance has brought on board for the inaugural season.
“It doesn’t matter race or gender, anybody who can help put their hand in the pile and help a team, help players achieve their goals, anybody who can help we’re open arms to that,” Ward said.
With her first full season on a football coaching staff just around the corner, King said she’s most looking forward to absorbing as much as she can.
“This is something where I learn something every day whether it’s in life or football from somebody there,” King said. “But you can’t sit at the table if you don’t bring anything to it. I think I’ve brought some things to it.”