Janice Pettyjohn has made history as the first woman hired to a full-time position in Howard University’s football program, HBCU Gameday reports.
Currently, the New Jersey native leads on-campus recruiting, runs operations such as maintenance of the football facilities and assists with the coordination of events.
“I’m 22, about to be 23, doing what some 30 years old’s are just getting started doing,” Pettyjohn said in an interview with the Burlington County Times. “You’re finding coaches on my staff who have coached in the NFL, who have played in the NFL. Coaches, who I’m not going to necessarily say ages, but they’re over the age of 40 and 50, who have been in this game for quite some time.”
Before working in sports, Pettyjohn was drawn to the arts.
"Ironically, I've always been an artsy girl,” she said. “So, painting, art, I still do to this day—that's what my hobbies are."
Health issues forced her to transition from being active in sports as a youth, so she began to use her organizational skills as a way to stay connected with athletics.
“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 because it just became second nature,” she continued.
After enrolling at Howard, she was offered an undergraduate position as a graphic designer and equipment manager.
"And then from there, my name just kind of started floating around,” she recalled. “And next thing I know, I'm working with operations, I'm working with the color commentating people on the radio, I'm working with the (sports information) department. I was always the kind of person with that mentality like 'if it has to get done, I'm going to be the one that gets it done.'"
Pettyjohn graduated from Howard’s Sports Medicine Residency program with a minor in sociology. Coach Larry Scott, who had taken over the football program, offered her a full-time position at Howard.
“I'm super grateful for this position," she said. "Being 22 years old and getting a full-time position at Howard, fresh out of college—it's rare. Coach Scott really saw the potential in me,” she said.
Pettyjohn said she owes her success to her mentors and co-workers at Howard who have taken the time to guide her and gave her opportunities.
“Two of our associate AD’s will literally just call me sometimes to say you’re doing a great job,” Pettyjohn said. “Our academic advisors will just call me and say you’re doing it. And my coaches tell me all the time. So even when I don’t feel it, if I don’t give myself the credit, there’s always someone else there in my ear.”