Hesston native blazes trail in NFL

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Football is second-nature to San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers who grew up playing with her twin sister Liz in Hesston, Kansas.

"Football has always been my favorite sport. when I was little, I would play every Sunday, every day after school actually," says Sowers.

Sower's neighbor and eventual college basketball coach at Hesston College Joel Kauffman recalls these memories as well.

"I kind of vaguely remember them playing football in the front yard against each other," Kauffman remembers. "It's actually in some ways, kind of a natural fit for her."

The Sowers sisters went on to play professionally, but Katie took it one step further.

"Coaching I just say is basically teaching and I love teaching," Sowers says. "I love helping people and I love seeing what you can get out of people so that's always been something that has come naturally to me and both of my parents are teachers."

Before football, she was forced into playing basketball but dominated nonetheless.

"Katie was a bull dog. She was the ultimate competitor and I think she was someone who was somewhat intimidating because she worked so hard and was so competitive and it was always team first," says Brennan Torgerson, her former basketball coach at Hesston High School.

Facilitating point guard with a team-first attitude, it's no wonder she is now shaping the minds and bodies of other athletes.

"I was a woman's college basketball coach for 21 years and I've always been an advocate for women to break some of those ceilings in the professional ranks, especially in men's professional sports," Kauffman says.

Sowers broke even more ceilings this past year, becoming the first openly gay coach in the NFL, female or male.

She says her hometown has always been supportive, even now.

"It's all been very welcoming and i was never worried about it, Sowers explains. "I grew up and even though it was a small town, I always felt very welcomed, very accepted. So it was never a question for me."

"We're in times right now that people and student athletes need to be who they are," Torgerson. "It's another example of who she is and how firmly and how strongly she believes in herself and her desire to be who she is and not be somebody she's not."

The coach is blazing a trail in the professional ranks and her former Hesston coaches say they are proud of her every move.

"She's tenacious, she will single-mindedly pursue something if that's what she really wants," Kauffman smiles. "So to see her doing this, I think the sky's the limit for her."

Read the original version of this article at www.kwch.com.