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Jen Welter says Cardinals’ Bruce Arians ‘welcomed me with open arms’

Jen Welter is congratulated by a teammate during a team practice session with the Texas Revolution in February 2014.

Jen Welter is congratulated by a teammate during a team practice session with the Texas Revolution in February 2014.

(Vernon Bryant / Associated Press)

Jen Welter knew the Arizona Cardinals were the place for her when, while attending an off-season practice in June, she had a memorable conversation with Coach Bruce Arians.

He didn’t want to talk about the novelty of her wanting to be a coach. He wasn’t patronizing. He just wanted to talk football.

“The best way I could say it is he welcomed me with open arms from minute one,” said Welter, 37, who will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday as a summer coaching intern, working with Cardinals inside linebackers. It is believed she is the first female to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL.

“We were talking real football stuff, talking to me like I’d known him my whole life. And I thought, I know why this man is coach of the year.”

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Welter spoke to The Times in a conference room Tuesday, an hour before she would sit at a dais before a large gathering of media.

Asked whether she feels like a pioneer, she said: “Absolutely. I’m blessed to be here. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be, or a coach I’d rather follow.”

Actually, Arians was named the NFL’s coach of the year twice in three seasons, the first time as an interim replacement for cancer-stricken Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuck Pagano.

“Somebody asked me, ‘How did this happen?’ ” Welter said. “I said, ‘It was the sheer will of a very strong man called Bruce Arians.’ No other way. This was all his bravery, and that’s why people follow him.”


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