Assistant running backs coach Jennifer King has made a habit of knocking down barriers throughout her young career with the Washington Football Team. She can add another one to her list.
King, the first African American female assistant position coach in NFL history, was named as the running backs coach for the West team in the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl. According to The Washington Post's Nicki Jhabvala, it is believed that King will be the first woman positional coach to serve in a positional role in a major college all-star game.
Jhabvala also reported that Katie Sowers, an assistant to head coach Charlie Weis in the 2016 East-West Shrine Bowl, is the only other woman to coach in the Shrine Bowl.
"I am very pleased to have Coach King back to assist me full-time in the running backs room," running backs coach Randy Jordan said when King was promoted to her current position. "She was extremely helpful last year in seeing the game from a different perspective, and she was a tremendous communicator in our room."
Since joining Washington's coaching staff as a full-year coaching intern -- she was the first full-season African American female coach in the NFL -- King has used her wealth of knowledge to guide and develop players. During the 2020 season, King assisted Jordan with a running back group that compiled 423 attempts for 1,697 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. King worked closely with running back J.D. McKissic in growing his skills in the pass game.
McKissic finished the regular season with 80 receptions, which is second-most in a season for a Washington running back in franchise history. He also had the second-most receiving yards (589) for a running back behind Alvin Kamara.
"Every time I said I was going to do something, she was out there," McKissic said in a Washington Post piece. "She would be out there 15 minutes early, and we'd push each other like: 'Hey, I'm out here. Where you at?' Whenever I would be like, 'Coach King, I need you,' there was never a holdup. It was like, 'Let's get it.' That's the type of stuff players need."
In 2021, King helped Washington's running backs finish the year 12th in rushing average (121.2 yards per game). It was fueled by the success of Antonio Gibson, who became the first Washington running back since 2018 to record a 1,000-yard season. Gibson also reached 21 total touchdowns in his career, giving him the most within a player's first two seasons in franchise history.
"She is a hard worker, a great communicator and a quality person," said head coach Ron Rivera. "Coach King is always eager to learn and has shown tremendous growth since starting here last season … The sky is truly the limit for her."
King's experience comes partly from an accomplished career as a player. She was a seven-time All-American quarterback and wide receiver for the Carolina Phoenix women's tackle football team from 2006-17. In 2018 she played wide receiver and defensive back for the New York Sharks women's tackle football team and captured the 2018 WFA National Championship. King played wide receiver and safety in the District for the D.C. Divas women's tackle football team in 2019.
King also had an impressive track record as a coach before coming to Washington. She was an intern wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers in 2018, when assisted with the creation of scouting scheme cards for the opposing defense and charted practice and in-game player participation and defensive schemes, and worked with the running backs in 2019. She worked 1-on-1 with rookies on playbook proficiencies and individual skill development along with analyzing drill efficiency and drill concepts.
In between her two internships with the Panthers, King was an assistant wide receiver coach and special teams assistant for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football. The Hotshots were 5-3 and tied for first place in the AAF Western Conference before the league disbanded. At the time of the league being dissolved, the Hotshots ranked No. 2 in yards per game (343.9) and points per game (23.2).
"Her expertise, the things that she's done, winning national championships," Jordan said when King was hired in 2020. "The athlete -- she's played football before. The thing that I'm excited about is that we're going to have someone in the room that can be a sounding board instead of me or another coach and bring a different perspective."