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Bills make NFL history by hiring first full-time female assistant coach

The Buffalo Bills have made history by hiring the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach.

The Bills announced Wednesday night that Kathryn Smith, who joined the club last year as an administrative assistant to coach Rex Ryan, is their new quality control coach-special teams.

The job was previously held by Michael Hamlin, whom the Bills announced on Jan. 12 was not returning to the staff.

Smith also worked as the administrative assistant to Ryan in 2014, his final year as coach of the New York Jets. She began her NFL career in 2003 as a game-day/special-events intern with the Jets.

In 2005, Smith became a college scouting intern with the Jets before being promoted in 2007 to player-personnel assistant, where she spent seven years until becoming Ryan’s administrative assistant.

“Kathryn has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff,” Ryan said in a press release from the Bills. “She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities, and I just know she’s going to do a great job serving in the role of quality control-special teams.”

Ryan added, “Kathryn has been working in a football administrative role and assisted the assistant coaches for years. She has proven that she’s ready for the next step, so I’m excited and proud for her with this opportunity. She will work with (special teams coordinator) Danny Crossman and (special teams assistant) Eric Smith involving a number of responsibilities.”

The Bills did not make Smith available to the media Wednesday night, nor did they include any comments from her in their release. A team spokesman said he planned to talk with her in “upcoming days” and guessed the earliest she would address reporters would be at some point after the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for Feb. 7.

The Arizona Cardinals were seen as taking a major gender-busting step in the NFL last summer by hiring Jenn Welter to work with them during training camp as a part-time inside linebackers coach.

“I consulted with (Cardinals coach) Bruce Arians on this since he was really the first NFL head coach to make this kind of move when he hired a female linebackers coach through the summer,” Ryan said. “You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady (Becky Hammon) that is an assistant to Coach (Gregg) Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization.”

Fittingly, the move was made by the Bills, who had the NFL’s first female scout in Linda Bogdan, daughter of former team owner Ralph Wilson. Bogdan died in 2009 after battling cancer.