TEMPE, Arizona (AP) -- Jen Welter accepts the title of trailblazer, embraces the chance to be a role model for girls and, perhaps most of all, can't wait to get beyond the hype and on to work when the Arizona Cardinals open training camp this weekend.
It's only a six-week internship coaching inside linebackers for the Cardinals, through training camp and the four preseason games. Nonetheless, it marks another barrier broken for women in sports.
Welter said she never dared entertain the thought of coaching in the NFL.
"I didn't even dream that it was possible," she said at news conference at Cardinals headquarters on Tuesday. "The beauty of this is that, though it's a dream I never could have had, now it's a dream other girls can grow up and have. So I guess if that makes me a trailblazer, then ..."
"... she's a trailblazer," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said to finish her sentence.
Team president Michael Bidwill said the move has the enthusiastic support of the organization, which has long been known for hiring minorities for management positions. Bidwill said he spoke on Monday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who congratulated the Cardinals on the move.
Known as Dr. Jen back in Texas, Welter has a PhD in psychology as well as a season as a player on a men's team, the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League.
There are a lot of people who are better than her at the X's and O's of American football, she said, "but the heart factor, the intelligent player factor, the being-the-person-with-the-motor-who-won't-quit factor, those are things I know I can add to."
Welter is the latest woman to enter what had been a men-only position. In April, the NFL announced that Sarah Thomas would be the league's first full-time female official. The NBA long has had a female official, and Becky Hammon is an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs and recently was head coach of the Spurs team that won the Las Vegas Summer League championship.
Welter's hiring stemmed from comments Arians made at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix in March.
He was asked about the possibility of women coaching in the league.
"The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they'll be hired," Arians said.
A short time later, the coach of the Texas Revolution got in touch with Arians and said he knew someone who might fit that bill.
Arians called Welter and offered her one of the team's six internships, then he got the backing of general manager Steve Keim and Bidwill.
"He had to get all the right yeses but it was his heart that made it happen," Welter said, "and it was his belief that the Arizona Cardinals are the team that could handle this happening, and that he has coaches on his staff that would embrace it and not cast me off to the side. You can't blaze a trail alone. Otherwise you're going to get stuck in the woods."
She played rugby at Boston College but American football was her first love. She spent 14 years as a linebacker, most of them with the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Football Alliance. She won two gold medals with the U.S. team at the International Federation of American Football women's world championships.
Her first check, she said, came in 2004 -- for $12, $1 for each game. She still carries the check. It proved she was a pro.
A year ago, the first barrier fell for her when she played running back and on special teams for the Revolution, the first woman to play a non-kicking position on a men's pro American football team. In February, she became the first woman to coach for a men's pro team when the Revolution made her linebackers and special teams coach.