BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula congratulated Kathryn Smith for becoming the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach by saying she earned the promotion.
“Kathryn has been a part of Rex (Ryan’s) staff for the past seven years and has proven that she does excellent work,” Pegula said in a statement released to The Associated Press on Thursday. “While we understand the significance of this announcement, it’s important to understand that Kathryn earned this position because she has shown she is qualified, dedicated and puts in the work needed for this role.”
Pegula issued the statement a day after the Bills broke the league’s gender barrier by promoting Smith to be their special teams quality control coach.
“The Bills organization is proud of Kathryn and her promotion,” Pegula added. “We look forward to the contributions she will make to our organization in her new role.”
The move has generated a tremendous amount of buzz and attention.
Chelsea Clinton took notice by posting a note on her Twitter account. The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton wrote “(hash)NoCeilings” in posting a link to a story about Smith’s promotion.
Smith’s appointment comes after Jen Welter served a six-week training camp internship last summer coaching inside linebackers for the Arizona Cardinals.
Smith is well-known within the Bills staff after spending this season as an administrative assistant for the team’s assistant coaches. She spent the past seven years working alongside Ryan.
She was the New York Jets player personnel assistant when Ryan took over as coach in 2009. Smith then served as Ryan’s assistant in 2014, his final year in New York before he was fired and then hired by the Bills.
“She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities,” Ryan said in a statement released by the team. “She has proven that she’s ready for the next step.”
The 30-year-old Smith grew up outside of Syracuse, New York, and was a three-sport athlete at Christian Brothers Academy, where she was on the swimming, bowling and field hockey teams. She also spent time assisting her father Robert in serving as the school football team’s statistician.
Smith then attended St. John’s University, where she studied sports management and also worked as a men’s basketball team manager.
While at St. John’s, she landed internships with the New York Jets, first in a game-day/special events position and then a role in college scouting.