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Katie Sowers, the Super Bowl's 1st lesbian coach, is taking her talents to Kansas City

The former 49ers assistant coach is headed back to the Midwest, where she grew up, for a new role with the Chiefs.
Image: Katie Sowers
Katie Sowers.NBC News; Getty Images

[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit nbcnews.com/pride30.]

Former San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers grew up playing football with her twin sister and friends near Wichita, Kansas, where she grew up. She always wanted to be a coach but never thought she would be the first female and out gay coach in Super Bowl history.

"When I got into coaching, it was never to be the first," said Sowers, 34, who helped coach the 49ers in last year's Super Bowl, when they faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs. "I've never been a believer in racing to be the first, because when you think about these young girls saying, 'I want to be the first female president, I want to be the first this, that or the other,' I think that we end up racing each other."

So while Sowers recognizes the importance of firsts, she said that "more importantly," we should make sure "there's a second, third, fourth, fifth."

Sowers first joined the NFL as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 and left for the 49ers a year later. She said being the first woman and out gay person in the Super Bowl was "an incredible experience" and also "a lot of responsibility."

"But I was proud to see the feedback of young girls who are now believing that they could also coach, they can be a part of the game just like the men," she said.

San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati on Sept. 15, 2019.Gary Landers / AP

Sowers fell in love with football as a kid after watching the 1994 movie "Little Giants," about a girl who puts together a Pee Wee football team in her hometown. While in college, Sowers played professionally in the Women's Football Alliance and as a member of the U.S. women's national American football team, which won the International Federation of American Football Women's World Championship in 2013.

Coaching was her dream, but she didn't know a woman could coach in the NFL (the league wouldn't have a female coach until 2015, when Jen Welter took a coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals). "I never thought about coaching football, just becase, you know, if you don't see it, you don't know it exists," Sowers said.

But when San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in the NBA in 2014, Sowers said, she started to imagine herself coaching in the NFL.

"I had this just fire inside of me to make sure that that happened," she said.

When she joined the Falcons as an intern in 2016, she didn't know what to expect or how the players would treat her, she said.

"But I found that these players were truly professionals, and they were willing to listen to take advice from anyone that they trusted had their best interests at heart," she said.

Sowers came out publicly as a lesbian in 2017 after she was profiled in the LGBTQ sports website Out Sports. After the story was published, she said, many of her players stopped by her office to show support.

"It was so well received, and there was so much more love than I expected," she said.

Sowers' contract with the 49ers ended in January after four seasons. In late May, she took to Instagram to announce that she will join the Chiefs in the offseason.

"Retired from coaching in the NFL? Nah. Kansas City.. I'm home!" she posted. "Huge thanks to the @chiefs organization for believing in me and providing me another opportunity to grow my coaching experience while learning from the best in the game through the Bill Walsh Diversity fellowship. Let's keep growing the game. See you this summer, chiefs kingdom."

Sowers said that Pride, to her, is about "being comfortable in your own skin, being authentic with being proud of how far you've come, how far you have yet to go," but that it's not "any type of destination."

"It's more about being happy with the journey that you're on and then knowing that you're fighting for a cause, for not just yourself, but for everyone," she said.

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