49ers' Katie Sowers intent on helping women find their path in NFL


49ers' Katie Sowers intent on helping women find their path in NFL

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the only full-time female coach in the NFL, 49ers' Katie Sowers knows she’s a pioneer. At the Women's Careers in Football Forum that was held prior to the opening of the NFL Scouting Combine, she became a sounding board and mentor for the select women in attendance who are aspiring coaches, trainers and scouts. 

Sowers spoke with NBC Sports Bay area after the forum and expressed that she feels blessed to be heading into her third season in Santa Clara. But she added that she will never rest on her laurels. Her drive to help others find their path might even be stronger than ever. 

“Just the energy that I feel from being around these women,” Sowers said, “and knowing that I’m opening doors for them, it definitely is something that gives me my ‘why.’” 

Sowers’ wish is to have more full-time positions available to women because providing for oneself, let alone a family while being an intern is impossible. 

“I want to get to a day,” Sowers said, “where I’m not hearing women asking how many internships do I have to do because I can’t provide for my family.” 

That day may be a little bit closer. After the forum, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians reported that he will create a full-time coaching position designated for a woman. 

“I don’t know that I feel a responsibility,” Sowers said. “I just feel a passion, and that’s not just for women. It’s for anyone who has a dream -- and that can kind of sound like a Miss America answer -- but anyone that has a dream and feels like there’s a barrier because of the societal blinders that we put on.” 

Sowers’ advice to aspiring women is not only to find their ‘why’, but to also make themselves irreplaceable. 

“Truly find out your ‘why’ because it’s going to be tiring and draining,” Sowers said. “If your ‘why’ doesn’t line up with the path you’re on, it’s not going to feel worth it. 

"Don’t try to do everything, find out what you’re good at, and what you’re going to do to be an asset to the team and you’re going to be someone that cannot be replaced.” 

[RELATED: 49ers female coach Sowers has head coach aspirations]

Kyle Shanahan and his staff obviously found Sowers irreplaceable. When asked how she accomplished that, she shared what she believes put her ahead of the curve. 

“I wanted to make sure that even though I was a woman,” Sowers said, “I was not someone that was changing the dynamics of the team. When the coaches had a staff meeting, I wasn’t changing the way people felt in the meeting. I wanted everyone to be themselves.” 

But it wasn’t just about making sure everyone was comfortable. Sowers’ work ethic hasn’t changed since she started as an intern in Atlanta. When she’s on the practice field, young players like receiver Kendrick Bourne approach her, listen, and take her coaching to heart because she’s done the homework. 

“I went out of my way to do things that other people weren’t doing,” Sowers said. “Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in the game of football. Coming in, new to the NFL, and just the way the schemes work are completely different than the women’s football that I learned. 

“So I created my own document of every single concept. We didn’t have that documentation. We didn’t have the rules. You learned it in the classroom. You’re expected to take notes, but to me, I needed to see everything.” 

Sowers explained that she still has the document and has added to it every season. What started out as a tool for her has become a tool for some of the players. When she is on the practice field, receivers work with her as they do all of their coaches, asking questions, and taking advice. 

For some that come into contact with Sowers, this apparently seems like an unbelievable dynamic. 

“I'm asked all the time,” Sowers said “‘Do the guys respect you?’ That’s a normal question I get. One day, oddly I was watching ballet practice in Kansas City, a field very dominated by women, but there was a male director. 

“I was thinking to myself, how weird would it be if I went up to him and said, ‘You are working in a field of a lot of women, do the women listen to you?’ That would be a very weird question. But it just goes to show the power dynamics that we have in society, how men are dominant and women are submissive.”

With all of the doubt and questions about going against the grain, Sowers explained why she chose the path less traveled. 

“I’m doing it for that little girl that had a dream of playing football,” Sowers said, “but never thought could play football. I was lucky enough to have a second chance around to follow in my dad’s footsteps of coaching, but coaching a sport that was my first love.” 

Former 49ers general manager Terry Donahue diagnosed with cancer


Former 49ers general manager Terry Donahue diagnosed with cancer

Former 49ers general manager Terry Donahue, best remembered for his successful 20-year run as UCLA's coach, underwent surgery last week for cancer and will begin chemotherapy in the near future.

Donahue, 74, was recently diagnosed with cancer, UCLA announced in a statement. Donahue was released from UCSD's Jacobs Medical Center on Tuesday, four days after undergoing surgery.

UCLA did not disclose the type of cancer that Donahue is battling. He will begin chemotherapy after recovering from surgery, the school announced. The Donahue family has requested privacy during this time.

In 20 seasons as UCLA’s head coach, beginning in 1976, Donahue’s teams amassed a record of 151-74-8 for a winning percentage of .665. Donahue was a two-time conference coach of the year and holds the record for career conference wins with 98. His 151 wins are the most in UCLA history.

In 1999, then-49ers general manager Bill Walsh hired Donahue to serve as director of player personnel. Donahue replaced Walsh as general manager in 2001. He served four seasons in that role.

The 49ers made the playoffs in Donahue’s first two years as general manager under coach Steve Mariucci. But after a power struggle, Mariucci was fired and Donahue hired Dennis Erickson as coach. The 49ers went 7-9 in 2003 and 2-14 in ’04, leading to the firings of both Donahue and Erickson.

How 49ers QB Nick Mullens, teammates spent day as Google 'interns'


How 49ers QB Nick Mullens, teammates spent day as Google 'interns'

You remember the movie. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson arrive on the Google campus as the most mature interns in the movie impeccably titled "The Internship."

49ers quarterback Nick Mullens found himself in a similar scenario and described what it was like to have that title for the day in a first-person blog. 

The signal-caller began his essay by discussing how sports has been all he's known throughout his childhood. So when he received a text from his player engagement director to visit Google, he, and other members of the team "signed up right away."

"Our player engagement program gives us all the resources we might need for life outside of football," Mullens wrote in Google blog. "They take rookies through a series of classes and talk about just the adjustment into the NFL. There are so many new things that you have to learn: dealing with money, dealing with family, dealing with fame, dealing with stress. Recently we realized, hey, we’re in the Bay Area around all these big companies, so why not learn something great -- from Google?"

Google greeted the team with a welcome sign and "this cool light-up floor," followed by a YouTube presentation that demonstrated how the entire generation is changing and how social media impacts fans and people around the world.

"I mean, shoot, I view myself as a regular dude, but I learned there are people out there who would love to see what I and other professional athletes do on a daily basis."

Despite everything that happened during his "internship," the 24-year-old did have the highlight of the day -- and it, of course, had to do with football.

"But my favorite part of the day was hearing from Chase Williams, a former football player, and Googler," Mullens noted. "It was really cool to see an athlete make their way into the tech industry and to be successful after football."

It made Mullens think: What happens after football?

"The biggest struggle when leaving the NFL is that you’ve surrounded yourself with this game your entire life, doing the exact same thing over and over. When it’s over, what are you going to enjoy working on? What will you love more than the sport? What else will we be good at? During Chase’s presentation one of my teammates asked the question, 'I’ve been playing in the NFL for so long, what skills do I have for the workforce? I’ve just been playing football!'”

[RELATED: 49ers have important comps during OTAs]

The talk made Mullens realize he, and other players, have been developing these lessons after football all along.

But the question remains -- is Nick Mullens "Googley" enough?