Bruce Arians on Dr. Jen Welter: “She has the background and experience we were looking for”

TEMPE, Ariz. — Dr. Jen Welter is cut from the exact same cloth her head coach is cut from.

“You know, I’m taking a page from (Cardinals’ head) coach (Bruce) Arians’ playbook, and that’s just being real with people,” Welter said. “I am not perfect. I have not done all the right things, or said all the right things, but anybody who knows me knows I’ve been at this game for a long time.”

Dr. Welter’s realness and her passion for the game of football has steered her in the direction of the Arizona Cardinals, as the NFL’s first female coach.

Welter got into the game of football 15 years ago, and it’s overtaken her. Her love for the game is as strong as it’s ever been, and now she gets to be around the game and with the Cardinals on a full-time basis during training camp and throughout the preseason as an intern.

“I could not have dreamed big enough to imagine that this day would ever come,” Welter said. “I changed my whole life around to be able to make that happen (play football).”

Welter will be one of seven interns on Arizona’s staff – all of whom Arians expects to come in and contribute right off the bat.

“They’re not here to watch, they’re here to work, get better, coach, correct the things that are wrong, pat people on the back when they do it right and jump right in,” Arians said.

This is how much Welter adores this game: she still has the first paycheck she received when she turned pro back in 2004. It was a $12 check, and she got it after her team won the championship – she got one dollar per game that season. Welter keeps it with her no matter where she goes. It’s in her purse and it’ll never be far away from her.

“That was before the time when you could take a picture of the check and keep it; it was either cash it or keep it, so I kept it. It’s kind of special,” Welter said.

As Arians said at Welter and Levon Kirkland’s introductory press conference, things happen for a reason, and sometimes the way they happen make you shake your head at the improbability of it all. Shortly after the NFL Owners Meeting, one of Welter’s coaches gave Arians a call and suggested that he meet with her, because he felt Arians would take to her quickly, and he did. Welter came over and met with Arians for the first time during OTAs, and as Arians said, “we got the ball rolling.”

“I knew this was the type of person that I was looking for to start this,” Arians said. “(I’m) extremely excited about opening this door for a very, very qualified person.”

With all the cameras and media personnel in the Cardinals’ auditorium, you’d think the Cardinals won Super Bowl 50 or something. Arians says don’t believe all the media hype surrounding Welter being the first female coach in the NFL.

“It’s really no different than anybody else. Do you really truly have the passion for this job?” Arians said. “She (Welter) obviously has the background and the experience we were looking for, as a player and a coach.”

As far as being a trailblazer, Welter wasn’t that quick to anoint herself as that, but Arians was. Arians believed in Welter so much, that he went to team president/owner Michael Bidwill, and general manager Steve Keim to get their blessings, which they were more than happy to give.

“I think it’s great. I think it was going to be one of the 32 (NFL) teams; I’m glad it was us,” Bidwill said. “I spoke to (NFL) Commissioner (Roger) Goodell about it yesterday afternoon and he was elated.”

“I think the best phrase that’s been used is really what Bruce (Arians) said, (which) is, ‘Opening a door,’ and it’s probably opened the door for many other opportunities for women, across not only our league, but other leagues as well, and other traditional male dominated industries,” Bidwill said.

It’s been quite an overwhelming 24 hours for Welter, but she’s taking it all in with all the new found media attention aimed in her direction.

“I’m honored, but that only happens with the best possible team,” Welter said. “It was his (Arians) heart that made it happen, and it was his belief that the Arizona Cardinals were the team that could handle this happening, and that he had coaches on his staff that would embrace it and not cast me off to the side.”

“Kirk (Levon Kirkland) reached out to me yesterday and he was like, ‘let’s hit this playbook. Anything you need, I got you.’ That’s the attitude that all of the interns he has here have, and that’s the attitude that everyone on his staff have. That’s beautiful. You can’t blaze a trail alone, otherwise you’re going to get stuck in the woods,” Welter said.

At 5-2, 130 pounds, Welter will be the smallest member of the Cardinals on the field, but she’s not going to let that limit how she’s going to coach up the inside linebackers. She might not be the best with X’s and O’s – by her own admission – but she’s stronger in other ways.

“The heart factor, the intelligent player factor, the being the person with the motor that will never quit factor, those are things I know I can add to,” Welter said.


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