The first black woman to coach full-time in the NFL comes to Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – On Friday, May 3rd, Offensive Assistant Running Backs coach for the Chicago Bears, Jennifer King, will visit Cornell University for a live discussion with student-athlete Sydney Moore.

Coach King made Black and Women’s history in 2021 as the first Black woman hired as a full-time coach in the National Football League (NFL) with her promotion from intern to Assistant Running Backs Coach with the Washington Commanders. The following year, she became the first woman to lead a position group at the East-West Shrine Bowl. In 2024, she made history again as the first woman to coach for the Chicago Bears.

“It’s still shocking in 2024 how many firsts we’re still having, it’s definitely an honor to be the first and, you know, I think I’m standing on a bunch of shoulders to be where I am now and I know there’s going to be a bunch of people standing on mine as well,” said King.

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The Reidsville, North Carolina native has been engaged in sports her entire life. In high school, she played on the basketball, softball, volleyball, track & field, and cross-country teams. As a student at Gilford College, she played both softball and basketball. She later graduated with her degree in sports management.

After graduating, she started her twelve-year basketball career. King played basketball in Australia. When she returned to the States, she was a volunteer assistant coach for Greensborough College for nine years. While volunteering, King had to find other avenues to support herself financially and decided to become a police officer for the city of High Point, North Carolina Police Department. After nine years, she became a head coach for Johnson and Wales Charlotte Campus for 2.5 years, winning a national championship. King accomplished this all while playing football.

For thirteen years, she played Professional Women’s Tackle Football as a Quarterback for three different leagues, winning two National Championships and becoming a seven-time All-American Athlete.

Once she became a coach, she was next to the Carolina Panthers facility and would often watch practice. King later reached out to NFL Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Sam Rapoport, who facilitates the Women’s Coaches Forum for the NFL. The interaction was a huge stepping stone for King’s career.

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Rapoport connected her with Scott Pioli, a former Assistant General Manager for the Atlanta Falcons. She later met Ron Rivera, former head coach of the Carolina Panthers in Flordia. King attended practice and knew that was what she wanted to do. She jumped at the opportunity. Rivera invited her to come for a Rookie minicamp and saw something in her.

Two days became 4-5 months working with receivers for the Panthers. King left halfway through the year to coach the Arizona Hotshots in the AAF League (Alliance of American Football).

In 2019, she returned to North Carolina to work with the Panthers running back group. When her internship ended, she worked with the Dartmouth football team with coach Eugene Francis “Buddy” Teevens II for the 2019 season, winning a championship.

Later that year, Ron Rivera became head coach for the Washington Commanders and invited King to join him. She was hired as an intern and got promoted, which began her 4-year career as an Assistant Running Backs Coach with the Washington Commanders. Now, She’s excited to be with the Chicago Bears as the team’s Offensive Assistant Running Backs coach.

Coach King has had an incredible career as a student-athlete, professional athlete, and coach and has broken barriers. As a young athlete in North Carolina, she looked up to retired American track and field athlete Jackie Joyner Kersee, former professional tennis player Zina Garrison, and Hall of Fame player and three-time NCAA Division 1 Tournament Champion, coach Dawn Staley. King is now paving the way for other women to reach the highest levels of coaching in male-dominated spaces.

“There are good coaches at all levels. So, it’s important to have those and I think women are doing a great job. I think it’s all up for here,” said King. “I have a lot of coaching experience that got me here so it’s not something that happened overnight, you know, by any means. So, it’s a lot of work going into it, but you know anything is possible,” she continued.

Coach King will talk about her path to the NFL, share daily activities, and answer questions submitted by the audience. Today’s discussion will take place at the Newman Arena at 5:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Office of Black Student Empowerment and supported by Cornell Athletics, the Gender Equity Resource Center, and the LGBT Recourse Center. The discussion will include an opportunity for autographs and photos. Registration is required and admission is free. To learn more information, visit

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