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She wanted to coach football, but everyone told her no. This spring, Panthers said yes… (USA)

Jennifer King used to peer through the slats in the fence of the Carolina Panthers’ practice fields, which sprawl emerald green under the city skyline just a few feet from where she parks her car each morning.

She would watch the Panthers practice through those slats as she walked into work at Johnson and Wales’ athletic facilities just behind Bank of America Stadium, yearning to be on the other side.

A multi-sport athlete, she grew up in Reidsville before excelling in basketball and softball at Guilford College in Greensboro. She developed a passion for coaching, for shaping young athletes and leading them through adversity.

Because nobody would let her coach football when she began her career, King became a women’s basketball coach. She was good at it, too, working her way up to the head coach at Charlotte’s Johnson & Wales, which she led to a national title last year.

And always, she studied football, and loved it more and more as the years went by. She has played quarterback and wide receiver in a women’s tackle football league for nearly a decade, and the more she learned, the more passionate about the sport she became.

She always dreamed about coaching the game, too, but people kept telling her “no.” And there were hardly any opportunities for King to achieve what she wanted most.

But this spring, King isn’t watching practice through a gap in the fence. She’s on the field.

Be ready for opportunity

King, 33, arrived without fanfare to the Panthers staff for the spring’s organized team activities and will stay through this week’s minicamp, working mostly with the receivers alongside Lance Taylor and Jerricho Cotchery.

She is the first female coaching intern ever hired in Carolina, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has known of her for a couple of years.

He has worked with the NFL’s career development symposiums, usually held during the Pro Bowl.

King has attended the symposiums for the past couple of years in an effort to wedge her foot in any door she could.

“I went to the Women’s NFL Careers forum in Orlando in February,” said King. “They single out some of the better candidates who might find opportunity, and we get a chance to meet a lot of executives. I met Coach Rivera there. We kind of connected, and obviously I’m right next door.”

Rivera held on to her resume, and she followed up, asking him to speak to some of her athletes in Charlotte.



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