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Buffalo Bills make woman the first female assistant coach of team in NFL history

Football fans may be focused on the playoffs, but the Buffalo Bills stole the spotlight Wednesday night when the team announced it hired a woman to be a full-time assistant coach — an NFL first. Kathryn Smith was promoted to quality-control special teams coach by Bills coach Rex Ryan. Smith is a 13-year NFL veteran. She had previously worked as an administrative assistant for the team’s assistant coaching staff, and, prior to her job with the Bills during the 2015 season, had worked for 12 years with the New York Jets — both as a player personnel assistant and later assistant to Ryan — while Ryan was the head coach of the New York Jets.

“She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities,” Ryan said about the historic hire in a statement. “She has proven that she’s ready for the next step, so I’m excited and proud for her with this opportunity.” On Twitter, Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito gave Smith a shout-out, saying, “Congrats Kathryn!! I know you will do a great job,” followed by a thumbs-up and smiley face emoji.

Smith is the latest woman to blast a hole in the NFL’s gender barrier. Last season Jen Welter worked as a pre-season assistant coach for the Arizona Cardinals, and Sarah Thomas made history when she became the first woman official to referee regular season games, after a long humble climb to the game’s highest rung of competition. The triumvirate of women working in the game is a phenomenon the NFL, which has been making concerted efforts to attract more women fans, noted on the Twitter account of its official cable network.

The Bills are no stranger to gender firsts, according to The Associated Press. In 1986, the team made Linda Bogdan the league’s first woman scout. Bogdan, who died in 2009, was the daughter of the Bills owner at the time.

The Bills finished the 2015 season with an 8-8 record, good for third place in the AFC East, but not enough to make the playoffs.

Read the full story at The Associated Press and the Buffalo Bills team website.

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