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She’s a woman. She’s openly gay. And she’ll make history Sunday coaching in the Super Bowl

Lorenzo Reyes
USA TODAY
Walton Sun

When Katie Sowers coaches for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs, she’ll be the first woman and openly LGBT person to do so in an NFL championship game.

“Yeah, being the first, it is historic,” Sowers said on NFL Network Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night in Miami. “There always has to be a first to make change. But the most important thing that I continue to say is to make sure that I’m not the last.”

Sowers, 33, has been an offensive assistant for 49ers for two seasons and has been in the NFL for four, including her introductory year in 2016 with the Atlanta Falcons. She joined the 49ers in June 2017 as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship, when she worked with San Francisco’s wide receivers.

Current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had been serving as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator at the time that Sowers got her start in the NFL.

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“I think I allowed him to see who I am, what my dreams were, what my goals were,” Sowers said of how she got started in the NFL under Shanahan. “And he truly believes in diversity within the NFL and he was happy to help me, which I am so grateful for. He truly became a mentor, taught me the culture, and really led me to where I am.”

Before the 2017 season, Sowers came out to Outsports as lesbian and became the first openly gay coach in NFL history.

Sowers is part of an offensive coaching staff that has helped the Niners become one of the more dependable outfits in the entire NFL. San Francisco ranked fourth in the regular season in total offense (381.1 yards per game), second in rushing (144.1 yards per game) and second in scoring (29.9 points a game). While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Raheem Mostert and tight end George Kittle have garnered much of the attention throughout the season and in recent weeks, wide receivers Deebo Samuels and Emmanuel Sanders have also been integral to the unit's success.

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“I believed in them,” Sowers said of the receivers, the group she works with most closely. “And I think (former 49ers coach) Bill Walsh always said the most important thing you can tell someone is ‘I believe in you.’ And that’s what I try to continue to reiterate to my players, 'cause it’s amazing the growth that happens when you just tell them, ‘I believe in you.’ ”

Sowers and the rest of the 49ers face a tough task in facing the Chiefs, who are known for their explosive offense but who also have a defense that has steadily improved as the season has progressed. San Francisco has dominated in the playoffs largely by rushing the ball, but Sowers said that the team’s versatility on offense will likely be on display against Kansas City.

“You’re going to see everything,” Sowers said. “And that’s what’s cool about our team, anything goes on Sunday. And you’re going to see run, pass, anything goes, and you’ll definitely see the best.”

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Sowers wasn’t the first female coaching assistant in NFL history; Jen Welter was hired in 2015 as a seasonal assistant for the Arizona Cardinals and coached during training camp and the preseason. Then, in 2016, Kathryn Smith was the first full-time female coaching assistant in the NFL when the Bills hired her to be a special teams quality control coach.

Sowers also was a member of the 2013 U.S. Women’s National American Football squad that won the International Federation of American Football World Championship.