Practice headquarters for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers sit a stone’s throw from JWU's Charlotte Campus and less than that from the Wildcat Center where Jennifer King works as head coach of the women’s basketball team. When the players hit the field, King can feel the tug of the game and the desire to be on the field. As a coach.
“I always liked football,” King says. “I would sit on my dad’s lap and watch games with him. I had a lot of friends who played. We played all the time. Today a lot of friends I had are players or coaches.”
But coaching football was not an option for King. Until now.
For the first time in their history, the Panthers hired a female intern—King, and she spent her time shadowing the wide receivers and working with their staff during mini camps.
“This has been a great opportunity coaching-wise," she says. "They have the best coaches in the league! I’ve learned a ton being around them.”
Like so many Johnson & Wales students, King isn't shy about rolling up her sleeves and getting to work, either. In fact, she's a football player, too. King is the quarterback and wide receiver for the New York Sharks women’s professional football team. Her weekends are about to get busier. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera asked Jennifer to attend training camp at the end of July in Spartanburg at Wofford College.
“We as a league are trying to create from gender equity,” says Rivera. “But also, more importantly, for her personally, it’s for her own personal growth. Whether she wants to continue in coaching football and it gives her an opportunity to have something on her resume so she can go to the next level or it may help her with her own personal career as head basketball coach at Johnson & Wales.”
“It’s big because it’s their final prep for the season. Unfortunately a lot of the guys’ jobs will end after training camp. They won’t be on the final roster. It’s cool to experience that atmosphere. Very few women have had the experience to do that. It’s huge,” King says.
King met Coach Rivera at the Women’s NFL Careers forum in Orlando in February and she stayed in touch with him. “This is a great opportunity for little girls to see someone in a position like mine. It lets them know they can do anything that they want to do.”