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Women in Super Bowl LV don't want the spotlight

Maral Javadifar, Jennifer King
Posted at 3:44 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 19:13:40-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Super Bowl Sunday, the spotlight will shine on three women with major roles on the field.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust, assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar and NFL referee Sarah Thomas will all go down in history.

“Katie (Sowers) was the first woman to be in the Super Bowl last year, so I was excited that Katie dealt with that stuff already so we don’t have to, but that’s not the case and it’s okay," Javadifar said.

Hesston, Kansas, native Katie Sowers was the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl. Sowers was an offensive assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

On Sunday, Javadifar and Locust will become the second and third female coaches in the big game.

“MJ and I are here to help Tampa Bay win. It wouldn’t matter if we were second in or 273rd in, you know what I mean," Locust said. "We acknowledge the fact that there haven’t been many before us, but it’s not anything that we kind of keep in the forefront."

Thomas will become the first female NFL official to work a Super Bowl.

The Buccaneers are the only NFL team this season with two full-time female coaches. Javadifar and Locust praised Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and the organization for the opportunity.

“If you can teach, you can coach," Arians said.

It's a simple philosophy, but it's one that Arians says has helped diversify his coaching staff.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of anything like this. This is unique, this is different, this is not the norm, this is not the norm of how this league and how the coaching staff looks across the league," said Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator.

Arians refers to his staff as "glorified teachers," and the players respect it.

Bucs defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches said he was hesitant at first when the Bucs hired Locust, but went on to say it was one of the best decisions the team made.

“It just opened my eyes like, you know, women are allowed to do this game too, because I’m not going to lie, at first I was kind of iffy about it because I’ve never had a woman D-line coach, or a woman coach in football, period," Nunez-Roches said. "And so to have her there and the things that she did to contribute to our D-line, I tip my hat off to her."

In separate interviews, Locust and Javadifar said they are focused on the task at hand, but are always looking to mentor other women who wish to follow in their footsteps.