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San Francisco 49ers’ Katie Sowers will become the first female to coach in a Super Bowl

San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers will simply be trying to win a football game in Miami on February 2, but she’ll also be making history as the first woman and the only openly gay person to coach in a Super Bowl.

The face of a popular Microsoft tablet advertisement, Sowers will get her first taste of the Super Bowl LIV spotlight on Monday at media day, where throngs of reporters will undoubtedly ask about her rise from a volunteer girls basketball coach to the Niners’ sideline.

In the meantime, most fans know the 33-year-old Sowers from the frequent Microsoft spots, in which she reads a letter she wrote as a child, describing her gridiron aspirations.

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Niners offensive assistant Katie Sowers (left, far right) will become the first woman and the first openly gay person to coach in a Super Bowl on February 2. She often posts pictures of her girlfriend (near right) on social media, but has not publicly identified the woman by name 

‘I hope someday I will be a good football player,’ Sowers narrates during the ad.

‘I am good at football. When we play football at home, I can make a touchdown in one catch.

I am the leader of our football club.’

‘I hope, someday, I will be on a real football team.

To fans, Sowers’ impact may not be entirely clear.

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During the games she can be seen pacing the sidelines and conferring with offensive players when the defense is on the field.

The rest of the week she runs drills, goes over film with players – primarily wide receivers – and attends meetings with other coaches.

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In addition to her coaching duties, Sowers has encouraged the 49ers to launch a Pride fan club, regularly speaks out on LGBTQ+ issues, and frequently posts pictures of herself with her girlfriend on social media. (Sowers has not publicly identified her girlfriend by name)

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo described Sowers as ‘tremendous’ following the team’s NFC title game win over the Green Bay Packers – a game in which he needed to attempt only eight passes as San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert dominated with 220 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

‘Katie was here before I was, but just what she does with the receivers, all the skill position guys, how she interacts with them,’ he said. ‘It’s special.

She’s feisty, man. Katie is awesome out there.

She’ll get after guys. .

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It’s fun to be around.’ 

Sowers’ tenure with the team predates Garoppolo’s arrival by a few months, and her relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan dates back to their time with the Atlanta Falcons.

Growing up as a Dallas Cowboys fan in Kansas, Sowers never played organized football until she was an adult with the West Michigan Mayhem of the Women‘s Football Alliance, where she played quarterback, according to The Guardian.

After learning the game’s terminology from her veteran teammates, Sowers made an important friend back in Kansas in 2013 when she coached a fifth-grade girls basketball team that included the daughter of recently fired Chiefs executive Scott Pioli.

Pioli learned about Sowers’ involvement with football and admired her ability to coach, and to her surprise, he had no problem with the fact that she was openly gay.

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As seen in a recent Microsoft ad, Sowers and her twin sister adored football, even though they could not play in an organized league. Sowers grew up as a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan 

‘What I failed to realize I was grouping him into a box,’ she told The Guardian.

‘Here’s this high-up NFL executive and how’s he going to react? Knowing his heart and his desire to help people was something I never thought could be possible in everything I assumed about that culture.’

It was Pioli who now-former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan came out to in 2011 when the two were in New England – six years before publicly acknowledging he was gay.

In 2016, Pioli convinced the coaching staff to offer Sowers a fellowship for minority candidates, by which point Jen Welter was working with the Arizona Cardinals linebackers as the NFL’s first female coach. 

Sowers soon discovered that her Falcons co-workers were eager to work with her.

‘I was embraced on day one,’ Sowers says. ‘It’s important to have someone in those leadership positions vouching for you.

When you gain the respect of the influencers in the room, everyone follows and that was huge.’

‘There’s a balance between helping someone get a foot in the door and helping someone find a job they’re qualified for,’ Pioli told the Guardian.

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Sowers (not pictured) played on the West Michigan Mayhem of the Women‘s Football Alliance 

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While living in Kansas, Sowers began coaching the daughter of former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli (far left), who helped her get an internship with the Atlanta Falcons.

In Atlanta, Sowers worked with now-49ers coach Kyle Shanahan (right), who brought her to San Francisco as an intern in 2017, when she mostly worked with receivers. This season he promoted her to a full-time role

Best of all, Sowers got the chance to work with Shanahan, who became the 49ers head coach in 2017.

Sowers asked Shanahan for an internship, which he gave her before making her a full-time coach before the 2019 season.

‘We plan on her assisting with the receivers,’ Shanahan told ESPN at the time.

‘Katie did a real good job for us in Atlanta, she’s done a really good job here. She helps [former receivers coach] Mike LaFleur out, just with some rotations and she helps our quality control [coaches] out just with all the stuff they have to do.

 

‘She’s a hard worker, you don’t even notice her because she just goes to work and does what’s asked. Because of that, she’s someone we’d like to keep around.

We’re still figuring out exact titles and stuff and what that aspect is, but she’s done a good job for us two years in a row in camp and we’d like to have her help out throughout the year.’   

‘Kyle’s not going to hire a woman to make a point,’ she says.

‘What’s really cool is that I showed in Atlanta that I could add value to the team. Having Kyle recognize that helped my confidence and set me on a path to become a better coach.

In addition to her coaching duties, Sowers has encouraged the 49ers to launch a Pride fan club, regularly speaks out on LGBTQ+ issues, and frequently posts pictures of herself with her girlfriend on social media. (Sowers has not publicly identified her girlfriend by name) 

As she explained, living openly has not only made her life less complicated, it may have also helped her as a coach.

‘If as coaches and teachers, if people don’t believe you, if they don’t trust you, if they don’t feel like you’re authentic, you’re not going to have any buy in,’ she told The Guardian. 

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Katie Sowers, 33, pictured alongside 49ers receiver Aldrick Robinson in 2019 before she was promoted to a full-time offensive assistant coach . She has primarily worked with receivers 

 

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