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Trailblazer Janice Pettyjohn Redefines Success in Howard’s Football Landscape

Janice Pettyjohn makes history as the first woman to hold a full-time staff position with the Howard University football team.

Janice Pettyjohn attending the NFL women’s forum. (Photo courtesy of Janice Pettyjohn via LinkedIn)

Once a Howard football manager in her undergraduate years, now the director of on-campus recruiting; Janice Pettyjohn has made history as the first woman hired at Howard for a full-time football position. 

Pettyjohn has always been passionate about sports which led her to become an equipment manager and graphic designer for the Howard football team during her freshman year in 2017.

The intersectionality of being a Black woman in the sports industry can have its challenges, but this was not a limitation for Pettyjohn. Throughout her college career, she lent time and skill to assisting the equipment and operations teams. 

Upon her graduation in 2021, Pettyjohn wanted to return to Howard and continue to bolster the team.

At the age of 22, Pettyjohn became the first director of on-campus recruiting and the assistant director of football operations, she has played a role in the success of the team within the past seasons which saw the Bison claim back-to-back conference titles.

In her first season with the Bison, Pettyjohn facilitated the recruitment of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Signing Day Class featuring 12 athletes.  

Head football coach, Larry Scott, described how Pettyjohn is a valuable addition to the program.

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“She kind of trailblazed the position herself with just work ethic and just making herself an asset to what we’re trying to do, everywhere that she could,” Scott said.

Pettyjohn is admired for her ingenuity in implementing innovative ideas within the football program, alongside her skill in fostering an environment that prioritizes the players.  

“She’s added just through her creativity. Her out-of-the-box thinking, being creative with how to do things at an elite level within our resources and things that we can do here at Howard to make it a great experience for our student-athletes,” Scott said.

“I think that’s where it starts because you don’t have championships without recruiting the right people,” Pettyjohn said.

Zahria Liggans, a junior sport management major from Detroit, a woman who serves as the creative director of media for the football team, further described Pettyjohn’s impact.

“I think that she shows that not only are we capable of being in a male-dominated field, an essential part of it,” Liggans said.

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Though Pettyjohn has added to the program with her expertise and inventive ideas, she acknowledges those around her also playing a role in the recent successes of the team.

“All of this comes into a team effort because, at the end of the day, no one person can change a program,” she said. “It’s the collective.”

Pettyjohn’s tenacity has made her admirable to the women around her, encouraging them to do what they’re passionate about and excel in doing so.

“I think just her passion to see this program reach its fullest potential honestly kind of inspires me to do better every day,” Liggans said.

“If no one feels inspired by what you do, you’re not doing it correctly,” Pettyjohn said.

Copy edited by D’ara Campbell 

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