As if it wasn’t a trailblazing enough accomplishment that Katie Sowers will become the first female to coach in the Super Bowl, she’ll also be the first LGBTQ-identifying woman to coach in the Super Bowl. The 33-year-old offensive coordinator is currently on staff with the San Francisco 49ers, working the sidelines and (hopefully) delivering them to greatness tonight. But, you see, this is an opportunity to write about the Super Bowl without talking about sports, and not only that, but we can celebrate a kick-*ss woman and workplace gender equality in the meantime! So let’s get into all things Katie Sowers.
Sowers started as an intern.
Though she’s only the second full-time female NFL coach, Sowers, like most of us, started from the bottom (now she here). She began her NFL career as a scouting intern for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, and, as recently as last summer, was a seasonal intern for the 49ers before moving into her current offensive assistant role.
She was a favorite of Kyle Shanahan, then-offensive coordinator for the Falcons, and followed him to the 49ers when he was poached by SF for the head coaching position. Having spent the 2017 off-season as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship, Sowers was hired full-time that season.
“She did a really good job for us in Atlanta. She’s done a real good job here. She’s a hard worker,” Shanahan told the San Jose Mercury News in 2017. “You don’t even notice her because she just goes to work and does what’s asked, and because of that she’s someone we would like to keep around.”
She played pro football herself!
No stranger to the sport, Sowers played for the Women's Football Alliance (tackle football, people) for eight years, even landing a spot on the U.S. national team. The team went all the way to the championship in 2013 and won gold. Sowers wasn’t a wallflower by any means: In a semi-final game that year, she intercepted five passes, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach, but it wasn’t until I found football later in life when I realized that although the road was way less traveled, I wanted to coach football,” she told Outsports. She also played basketball in college, but her alma mater (Indiana’s Goshen College) wasn’t as accommodating for her professional goals.
“My coach called me in and said they have a lot of parents that have been worried about their daughter being around someone who is gay,” Sowers told NBC Sports. “That's not something they would want around the team.”
She’s a close friend of Scott Pioli, known for his support of LGBTQ athletes.
The general manager of the Atlanta Falcons is credited with the public support of one other LGBTQ athlete, who came out after his retirement: Ryan O'Callaghan, former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle who makes an appearance on Netflix’s Aaron Hernandez docuseries, “Killer Inside.” O'Callaghan talks at length about the stigma of being part of the LGBTQ community as a professional athlete and lended his opinions to the three-part series, which explored the late Hernandez’s sexual orientation.
When Sowers was offered the job with the 49ers, she personally thanked Pioli for his encouragement and backing, praising his ability for “opening doors and breaking down walls in the NFL that for years have shut people out.”
Her biggest motivator is being a role model for young girls.
Sowers’ philosophy is that the more children see, the more able they are to break down walls themselves.
She told Outsports, “I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling. I would have loved to see women in this role when I was growing up, because I think it would have allowed me to follow my passion even earlier. If you can’t see something happen, sometimes it’s hard to believe it can.”
"I have a job to do here. As surreal as this is, I have to focus on that job,” she told the LA Times. “Being the first female and getting all this publicity...It's being visible to younger women and everybody, really. But the most important thing is making sure I'm not the last."
She stars in a Super Bowl commercial.
Microsoft is helping tell Sowers’ story in a 60-second ad tonight, diving into the coach’s childhood love of football and her journey to becoming the record-breaking woman she is. Keep an eye out for it!