This story is part of a series highlighting women in athletics at the University.
As the first woman promoted to a job position coaching in NCAA Division I football, Heather Marini has already made history.
“Football is such a great game and it’s awesome to be able to share that with other women,” Marini wrote to The Herald. “It’s been awesome to see programs consider the whole population when hiring the best coaches and staff, and I know that means more women will continue to get opportunities in the sport."
Hailing from Australia, Marini was unfamiliar with American football until her husband took her to a game. She has since immersed herself in the sport as both a coach and a player.
Marini played for the Australian national team in the 2022 International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championships. Now, she continues to play as a quarterback and punter for the Boston Renegades in the Women’s Football Alliance, winning the league championship in 2021 and 2022.
Marini also coached the Monash Warriors Gridiron Club in Australia for six seasons, where she coached current NFL defensive end Adam Gotsis.
Before coming to Brown, Marini was a summer scouting specialist for the New York Jets and was invited to the NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
After connecting with Head Coach James Perry ’00 during her tenure with the Jets, Marini was hired as a quality control assistant for the Bears in 2019. In her first season, the team doubled its scoring output from the previous year and Perry made the historic decision to promote Marini to coach for the quarterback position.
After her promotion, Marini coached quarterback EJ Perry ’22 and the Bears offense to a historic 2021 season. Following the season, EJ Perry became the second player in school history to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and the second player Marini sent to the NFL in her 16-year coaching career.
“My coaching philosophy has always been to develop thinking athletes, which to me means coaching to continually improve skills, further understand the game and encourage the right questions as well as working on all aspects of athleticism, including mental preparation,” Marini wrote.
Marini has earned the respect of players and coaches alike, establishing herself as one of the team’s most important assets on and off the field.
“Coach Marini has done a terrific job as our QB coach … She works hard to help (quarterbacks) improve the technical and mental aspects of the position,” James Perry wrote in a message to The Herald. “Heather brings great energy and insight into the film room and practice field. She is an outstanding member of the staff.”
“Nothing happens overnight — this is my 16th year coaching football, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunities I've been able to experience along the way,” Marini wrote. “I've had to work incredibly hard to be in the position that I am in and I love being able to develop my relationships with players and coaches along the way.”
Dennis Carey is a sports senior staff writer for The Brown Daily Herald. He previously contributed to the Arts and Culture section. In his spare time, he enjoys watching Atlanta sports and collecting vinyl records.