In what is a huge step for women across all sports, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills have hired Kathryn Smith, a St. John's alum and former four year men's basketball student manager, to be their Quality Coach-Special Teams, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in NFL history.
"Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff," coach Ryan said in a press release on Wednesday night. "She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities, and I just know she's going to do a great job serving in the role of Quality Control-Special Teams."
Smith and current men's basketball assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih worked together as student managers for four years before she graduate from St. John's in 2007 with a degree in sports management.
"I am ecstatic for Kathryn to receive this opportunity," said Abdelmassih. "She was always hard working, goal oriented and she always wanted to be in sports in some capacity. This is a great day for women in sports. Kathryn is a pioneer."
Smith worked with Ryan in the New York Jets organization, serving in a variety of roles for six years before joining the Bills organization as an administrative assistant for the 2015 season. Now, she is taking the next step, serving as a role model for women interested in coaching football across the country.
Before the hiring, Ryan said he consulted with Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who employed Jenn Welter as an intern linebackers coach for training camp this past summer.
Welter and Smith are just some of the women that have broken the coaching barrier. Becky Hammons, a former WNBA player, was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as a full-time assistant in 2014 and won the Summer League championship as head coach in 2015. With an area scout position open last month, the Seattle Mariners hired Amanda Hopkins to be the first full-time MLB scout since the 1950s.
"You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady that is an assistant to Coach [Greg] Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization," Ryan said.
"[Kathryn Smith] has proven that she's ready for the next step, so I'm excited and proud for her with this opportunity."
While Quality Coach-Special Teams is not a high ranking position within an NFL organization, Smith has the ability to work her way up the ladder (from basketball manager, to internships to the NFL) while bringing hope and confidence to young female coaches that are currently working at the college and high school level.
Sarah Thomas, Jen Welter, & now Kathryn Smith -- serving in the role of Quality Control-Special Teams for the Bills! pic.twitter.com/0wH419aVRq— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 21, 2016
Very cool and overdue - Bills hire 1st full-time female NFL coach, Announce Kathryn Smith as Quality Control-Special Teams coach— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 21, 2016
Congrats Kathryn!! I know you will do a great job. https://t.co/DWpWQJAtV5— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) January 21, 2016