Howard Football Makes Strides With 22-Year-Old Janice Pettyjohn, First Woman Assistant Director Of Football Operations

(Photo: HU)

The Howard Bison football team and head coach Larry Scott hired Janice Pettyjohn to a full-time position in April 2021. The 22-year-old who is a recent graduate of the legendary HBCU. Recently, the rising Pettyjohn was given the title of assistant director of football operations, a title that is becoming synonomous for women among college athletics. Pettyjohn who’s been involved with the football program since 2017, had this to say about the major move in a recent feature by the Burlington County Times.

”I’m 22 about to be 23, doing what some 30 year olds are just getting started doing. You’re finding coaches on my staff who have coached in the NFL. Coaches, who I’m not going to necessarily say ages, but they’re over the age of 40 or 50, and have been in this game for quite some time.”

With the world of sports forever changing and especially over the last few years we’ve seen women being hired by football teams in the NFL and NCAA. 

From the Washington Commanders hiring Jennifer King to a full-time on-field position, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hiring Lori Locust as their assistant defensive line coach, things are changing. 

In all, there are 12 women who currently hold coaching positions in the NFL. The league just mandated that all 32 teams must have a woman or person of ethnicity as an offensive assistant., so expect that number to increase quickly. 

Women As Director Of Football Operations Becoming More Common In CFB

It started with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish naming Olivia Mitchell, a 2016 graduate of the legendary school, its director of football operations in 2020. As Notre Dame’s director of football operations, Mitchell supervises and coordinates many of the program’s administrative and operational details, including team travel, preseason camp arrangements, the annual coach’s clinic, and summer camps.

She reports to Ron Powlus, Notre Dame’s associate athletics director for football and a former hot-shot Fighting Irish QB during the end of the Lou Holtz era.

Norfolk State followed by hiring Katina Roberts to handle its day-to-day football operations, becoming the only current female to hold the director of football operations post at the FCS or FBS level in Virginia.

In December, LSU hired Jas Smith to the same position. In fact, the Notre Dame and LSU hires were both made by Brian Kelly, the former Fighting Irish head coach and current LSU Tigers head coach

Pettyjohn Worked For This Opportunity: She Prepared Herself

Pettyjohn created her own path when health concerns scratched any chance of her participating in sports while still in middle school. Wanting to be a part of something, she became a team manager.

“No one wants to come right home after school; you want to do something,” she told the Burlington County Times. “So I started managing the basketball team in seventh grade then I did it in eighth grade and it ended up just becoming something that I loved without realizing that I love it because it becomes second nature.”

In school she managed the football team, and upon arrival at HU, then-head coach Mike London made her the equipment manager and graphic designer for the program.

Pettyjohn says things took off from there and was soon in high-demand within the program.

“And then from there my name just kind of started floating around. And next thing I know, I’m working with operations, I’m working with color commentating people on the radio, I’m working with the sports information department.”
“I was always the person with the kind of mentality like that if it has to get done, I’m going to be the one that gets it done.”

Larry Scott Tasked With Restoring Middling Program Back To Glory

 

The Howard Bison football program hasn’t been much to talk about since quarterback Jay “Sky” Walker and wide receiver Gary “The Flea” Harrell were tearing things up in Northwest Washington during the early to mid-1990s. 

Walker is now a Maryland state delegate, and Harrell is Deion Sanders’ lead assistant at Jackson State. Scott has a glowing résumé, with stops at Miami, Tennessee and Florida. He was highly sought after by Nick Saban at Alabama after the 2020 season but declined the offer in order to stay and build at Howard. 

Thus far it’s been mixed reviews with COVID-19 ravaging his tenure, but you can see a difference in the players’ attitude and how they carry themselves. His leadership is showing, and moves like this just confirms he’s the right man for the job.