Katie Sowers, who became the second woman to be hired as a full-time assistant coach by an NFL team earlier this month, is also the first NFL coach to publicly identify as homosexual.
"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are," Sowers told Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com. "There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation.
"The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."
In a wide-ranging interview, Sowers, who came out as lesbian to her family while in college, said football was her favorite sport growing up and that she knew from a young age she wanted to be a football coach. She said getting her chance to coach with the 49ers has allowed her the opportunity to embrace her dream.
"The most fulfilling aspect is having the ability to impact the lives of these young men chasing their dream of playing in the NFL, as well as serve as a role model for young girls who might happen to see me following my passion," Sowers said. "I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling.
"I would have loved to see women in this role when I was growing up because I think it would have allowed me to follow my passion even earlier. If you can't see something happen, sometimes it's hard to believe it can. We don't know what we don't know, and I didn't know football was even a possibility for women."
Sowers, 31, broke into the league as an intern with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, where she made an impression on current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who was serving as the Falcons offensive coordinator. In becoming a full-time offensive assistant with the 49ers, she followed in the footsteps of Kathryn Smith, who served as the special teams quality control coach for the Buffalo Bills in 2016.
Sowers played football professionally and for the U.S. national team at a variety of positions, including wide receiver, served as a USA Football adviser, and as general manager of the Women's Football Alliance's Kansas City Titans.
"Katie did a real good job for us in Atlanta, she's done a really good job here," Shanahan told reporters earlier this month. "She helps [receivers coach] Mike LaFleur out, just with some rotations and she helps our quality control [coaches] out just with all the stuff they have to do. She's a hard worker, you don't even notice her because she just goes to work and does what's asked. Because of that, she's someone we'd like to keep around."
"There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation," Sowers said. "The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."