A week after becoming only the second woman to be hired as a full-time coach in the NFL, Katie Sowers also is now the league's first coach to come out as gay after acknowledging her sexual orientation in an interview with Outsports.
"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant said in the interview published Tuesday. "There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation.
"The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."
Sowers, 31, has loved football since childhood and played professionally in the Women's Football Alliance. She also discovered a passion for coaching and didn't let an early setback deter her from pursuing the line of work as a profession.
"As I was finishing college, I actually got turned down from a volunteer [basketball] coaching job because I was a lesbian," Sowers said. "I was told, 'Because of your lifestyle, we ask that you do not come around the team.'
"That moment really impacted me because it was the first time I truly felt judged because of my sexual orientation. I was so passionate about coaching and to feel like my opportunities were limited because of who I loved was hard to deal with. However, without that experience I would not be where I am today."
Her sexual orientation came up again last year before she started a scouting internship with the Atlanta Falcons. This time, the experience was a positive one.
"I could not have asked for a more open-minded and accepting group of people to work with," she said of her time with the Falcons. "I never once felt judged and I was treated just like anyone would want to be treated: as a typical person working to build a career."
Sowers got to know then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. After landing the head coaching job with the 49ers this offseason, Shanahan brought in Sowers as a full-time assistant to work with wide receivers.
And, she hopes, this is only the start of a successful coaching career.
My goal is to be a head coach in the NFL or college," Sowers said. "I love leading people and I have a passion for this game."