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Jen Welter Hired As NFL Coach, As Arizona Cardinals Make Gender History

07/28/2015 04:24 EDT | Updated 11/17/2015 05:59 EST

"How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet man, I'll listen."

That's one thing Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians says he's learned from players.

And it's a perfect way to sum up his hiring of Dr. Jen Welter as a linebacker coach for the team's training camp.

It's believed that she is the first female ever to coach in the National Football League (NFL), said a team news release.

Arians hired Welter after she came to an off-season training session. He decided she could "handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door."

Welter, who has a Ph.D in psychology and a master's in sport psychology, was previously the first woman to play a non-kicking position in men's football, after stints as a running back and special teams member with the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution.

She also has two gold medals from competing with Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women's World Championships in 2010 and 2013.

ESPN's Josh Weinfuss wrote that Arians' decision to hire a woman "shouldn't be a surprise" after he indicated he would be open to it at an NFL owners' meeting in March.

Asked when a female would join an NFL team's staff, he said, "The minute they can make a player better, they'll be hired."

Welter's hiring is drawing positive attention from high places.

But the Cardinals' decision is just the latest example of women breaking into men's pro sports.

In 1992, the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning signed goaltender Manon Rheaume as a free agent. She played one period of an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues, and another period against the Boston Bruins in 1993.

More recently, Becky Hammon was hired as an assistant coach for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. She also coached the team to an NBA Summer League championship.

Welter's hiring isn't even the most recent example of the NFL breaking the gender barrier. Earlier this year, Sarah Thomas became the first woman to serve as a full-time league official.

As for Welter, Arians told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that, "I think it's time. She has earned this."

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