The New York Jets are poised to make some franchise history this summer during training camp.
According to the New York Daily News, the Jets have offered a coaching internship to Collette Smith, who will work with the defensive backs. Smith will be the first female coach for the team and just the third in the NFL, following Jen Welter, who interned with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, and Kathryn Smith, who spent last season as a quality-control special teams assistant with the Buffalo Bills (she was not retained after the Bills fired Rex Ryan).
The 44-year old Smith is a native of Queens and lifelong Jets fan. She is currently a coach and marketing executive with the New York Sharks, part of the Independent Women’s Football League.
“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith told the Daily News. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”
She was a player with the Sharks for three years before a knee injury ended her playing days. After the injury, former Sharks coach Richard Harrigan made her an assistant on his staff.
Smith had practice-field access with the Jets last year, and gravitated toward the defensive backs. That’s how she met head coach Todd Bowles, himself a former safety, and as they chatted, Bowles discovered Smith is serious about football.
“He called over all the defensive backs,” Smith said. “He told them who I was and that I’d be hanging around from time to time. Everybody was polite and respectful.”
She won’t just be hanging around this summer. Smith sees herself as a small part of the bigger picture.
“This is a way for me to help empower women. Don’t dream small, play big and go for it,” she said. “One day a woman will come to a football team, and it won’t be a big story. It’ll just be football. When that day comes I’ll be more honored and even more proud.”
It’s likely Bowles spoke with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians about how Welter was received by players; Bowles was defensive coordinator in Arizona before being hired by New York.