Last weekend, fans shared in the excitement as the San Francisco 49ers celebrate their win over the Green Bay Packers to secure their spot in the 2020 Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. As exciting as that moment was, nobody could be more excited than Katie Sowers, an assistant coach with 49ers who is the NFL’s first female and openly LGBTQI coach to head to the big game.

Sowers’ shared her excitement for the 49ers win on social media as the news set in the team “prepares to head to South Beach.” Sowers is the third woman to coach an NFL team and second woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the NFL. In an interview with People, she shared that she doesn’t let that define her career and capabilities;

“When you ask any of the coaches who work with me, often they’ll get asked about working with a female,” Sowers said at the time. “To them, it’s not even something that they think about — and it’s not something that I truly think about. They see me for who I am as a coach, and not a female coach.”

Her passion for football began at a young age in Kansas playing pick-up games with her twin sister in their grandmother’s backyard. She attended a religious college in Indiana in which she regularly experienced discrimination on the basis of her sexual orientation.

“I was turned down for a volunteer, unpaid coaching position at my former college because of my lifestyle,” she explained. “I remember holding back tears and calling my mom right away.”

Because of the college’s religious affiliation, “there was nothing that I could do about it,” Sowers added. “That was, in a way, their right to turn me down, to keep me away from the team.”

Sowers took that rejection as an experience to help her move forward in achieving her goals, she realized that her path to those goals would lead her elsewhere and ultimately, to the NFL. She started her NFL career as a training camp assistant with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 and signed on the 49ers as an intern in 2017. She was promoted to her current position in 2019. For Sowers, the most important part of her accomplishment is how she has been sparking change and inspiring others;

“When I’m on the field and look around, it all kind of sinks in on how far I’ve come and where I am,” she told PEOPLE. “I see young girls out there almost every game, and someone’s mom or dad is yelling to me, saying, ‘my daughter wants to play football,’ or, ‘my daughter is going to be a coach.’ And those are the moments where it’s worth it.” 

The Super Bowl kicks off on February 2nd in Miami, 6:30pm ET on FOX. 

By Dirk Smith