How do you get to a new place when there's no map for it?
"I want to coach football. That's pretty much it."
All Mickey Grace wants to do is coach football. And that seems like a simple request. If you want to be a doctor, there is a roadmap for that. You want to be a bartender? There is a roadmap for that, too. And if you want to coach football, there is a roadmap… unless you are a black woman. Unlike men, women don't have the luxury of going back to their former coaches to find out how to get into the NFL pipeline. In spite of that, the Washington Football Team's Jennifer King made history this year by becoming the NFL's first Black female assistant coach.
But sometimes maps fail.
"I remember wanting to be in football and having zero idea where to start. No clue. Where do I go? I could only see the next step. I'm gonna do what everyone does. I'm gonna go to my alma mater, and I'm going to coach, but then my high school closed down. So that wasn't an option," Grace remembers.
While Covid-19 has affected opportunities to be an NFL intern this season, she says that hasn't stopped her from networking in the league. "Zoom calls have taken me all over people's homes." And it was because of a Zoom call that Grace eventually graced the Rams as one of the ten scouting apprentices.
Her thought process for drawing a new map was, "If I was going to figure out how to maneuver through where to apply, what to apply for, what I want, how to learn, how to grow, how to do more… I gotta go where the iron is. If I want to be a sharp iron, iron sharpens iron. Okay, well, where's the other iron?"
At the moment, she's found some iron being part of the Rams Scouting Apprenticeship, working under Brian Xanders. He is a former General Manager for the Denver Broncos and currently a Senior Personnel Executive for the Rams.
"Football coaches who have been coaching at college, they get to just do ball 16 hours a day, and go home, go to sleep, wake up and do ball some more," explained Xanders. "But she doesn't have that luxury, yet."
She still hasn't arrived at her final destination. While Covid-19 has affected many people's ability to travel, it hasn't stopped her from continuing her voyage to becoming a full-time football coach. Grace has trekked both virtually and in person: "Zoom calls have taken me all over people's homes."
Most recently she flew to Cairo, Egypt to coach with the Star Wright Foundation, an organization that helps facilitate programs in global communities to help with socio-economic advancement and human rights. Grace helped the foundation to facilitate football campaigns around parts of the world that had no idea what football even was.
Grace is now just two classes away from getting a Master's Degree in Psychology. But her mastery is in the art of discovery. "My problem was, I never knew how to get prepared, like, I can't get into the room, if I don't even know where the room is. I can't stand outside of it even over here."
Now in "the room", Grace knows what football is, and that she wants to be in it.
"Football is unfortunately the thing. I would love to love something else. Like I've tried. I've tried to love something else, but I don't. I love the game and I understand that it is a journey, and you have to put in your 10,000 hours."
At this point, she wants to join a team that will allow "me to perfect this craft. Under a place that is prepared to just allow me in."