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Jen Welter had conversation with Bills, still confident in NFL chances

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McManus on Smith gaining NFL coaching position (2:48)

Jane McManus of espnW discusses with ESPN's Mark Schlereth the impact Kathryn Smith will have on the NFL as the league's first female full-time coach. (2:48)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jen Welter paved the way for women in the NFL by becoming the first female assistant coach when she interned with the Arizona Cardinals during training camp this season.

On Wednesday, Kathryn Smith followed Welter's lead when the Buffalo Bills made her the first female full-time assistant coach in the NFL. She will be Buffalo's special teams quality-control coach.

"I think it's an honor to know that what we did in Arizona has really changed the game for other women," Welter told ESPN.com Thursday.

Bills coach Rex Ryan reached out to Cardinals coach Bruce Arians before hiring Smith, who was Ryan's administrative assistant last season in Buffalo after working for the New York Jets for the previous 12 years, including the last six when Ryan was the Jets' coach. Ryan was interested to know whether having Welter on the staff was a distraction as well as the logistics. Arians said it wasn't a distraction, and by the end of their conversation, he said he could tell Ryan was "very interested" in hiring Smith.

Arians said Thursday that during his conversation with Ryan, he gave Welter an "extremely high" recommendation, and he endorsed her again during a news conference leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

"I think all new coaches should look at her because her résumé is outstanding," Arians said. "I was really happy for Rex that he did it, and I think more women should be in the league coaching."

Welter met with Bills co-owner Kim Pegula and team president Russ Brandon at an Arizona Coyotes game Monday, when Welter was honored by the hockey team. She said she had a "good conversation" with them but said it was "interesting" to see Smith's hiring announced two days later.

Welter said she hoped she would've been hired by the Bills but said the prospect of being an NFL coach is "still not over for me."

"I'm happy that I was essentially a lead blocker, and I always knew other women would follow," Welter said. "I'm good with that.

"I did the impossible part, which was being the first female to coach in the NFL," Welter said. "And that, no matter what happens afterwards, is one of the greatest moments in the history of women in sports."

Welter said she thought Smith starting as a quality-control coach for her first NFL coaching job was "great" because it mirrored how a male could get his start in the NFL, she said.

Welter has not spoken to Smith but said her advice would be to be completely "authentic" with the players.

"Care about them and do your best to prepare them," Welter said.

There was one area where Welter felt Smith might struggle.

"Part of what worked (for me) and was so magical was that there was football in common," Welter said. "Guys had watched my highlight reel, and it was easy for me to jump in. And I think that's the challenge that she's going to have."

With a day to reflect on Smith's hiring, the reality of what Welter was able to accomplish -- not just for herself -- began to set in.

"I wanted to shatter the glass ceiling, and I did," Welter said. "I already created real change.

"You always wonder what results your sacrifices, your work and your efforts will allow to happen, and this has happened in very real time, and I think it's exciting."