“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Katie Sowers says. As the first openly gay NFL assistant coach, Sowers is honoring her philosophy.

Sowers is in many ways a pioneer. In addition to being the first publicly gay NFL coach, she is also the second female assistant in league history. Sowers — a San Francisco 49ers assistant who works with wide receivers — does not hide from either legacy and is damn good at her job. For these reasons, Outsports has picked Sowers as our Female Hero of the Year for 2017.

Sowers embraces being both gay and a woman in a sport that has always been a male and straight bastion, and uses her Instagram account to post messages of inspiration.

Remember your "why" and let that guide you #family #nolimit #beyou

A post shared by Katie Sowers (@katesowers5) on

Sowers’ historic achievements this year did not go unnoticed. Women and girls would ask for her autograph at 49ers games and the Pro Football Hall of Fame included some memorabilia of hers to mark the historic nature of her role. Here’s hoping Sowers has a long and productive NFL career and continues to inspire others to follow their dreams like she did.

Honorable mention

It was a year of prominent female LGBT athletes getting engaged or married or talking about their marriages, which is important for raising visibility.

Previous Winners

2016 — Basketball player Elena Delle Donne

2015 — Basketball player Layshia Clarendon

2014 — NCAA administrator Karen Morrison