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Next Woman Up: Maya Ana Callender, Scouting Assistant for the New England Patriots


Women are rising up the ranks throughout professional football, earning positions of power in a space that for too long was ruled almost exclusively by men. We're seeing more and more women breaking barriers in the sport, but what are the stories beyond the headlines? Who are the women shaping and influencing the NFL today? Answering those questions is the aim of the Next Woman Up series. While the conversational Q&As are edited and condensed for clarity, this is a forum for impactful women to share experiences in their own words. Without further ado, we introduce:

Maya Ana Callender, New England Patriots

Position: Scouting Assistant

How did you get your start in a career in football?

My little brother, Malcolm, played football, and he and I grew up being football fans together. Because of that bond and our love for the game, I knew I wanted to do something in football in my career, but I didn't know what that looked like. I was a student at Utica University, a small Division III school in Upstate New York, and going into my freshman year, I knew I wanted to work for the football team. I applied for a random office job for the football team in my second week of school. I didn't hear from the football coach, Blaise Faggiano, so I decided to email him and introduce myself. I guess that impressed him because he called me in for a meeting and hired me right afterward. I was an office manager for the team, answering phones and organizing mail. By homecoming of that season, I was on the sideline as a student manager, helping out with equipment, game-day needs and at practice. I give a lot of credit to Coach Faggiano for letting me be involved in every aspect.

I saw that you took part in several fellowships and internships with NFL teams prior to joining the Patriots. What were those experiences like?

After I graduated from Utica, I was tired of the snow, so I moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to be the interim director of football operations for Belhaven University. I stayed there for a year before moving to Princeton to be the assistant director of football operations. I was in that role for two years, then I was promoted to director. At the time, I was the first female DFO in the Ivy League. Once I did that, my name got out there and I got in touch with Sam Rapoport, who established the NFL Women’s Forum. I went to that event in Indianapolis pre-COVID, and it was a great experience. I got to meet with a lot of executives and do a lot of networking. I had no prior experience in the NFL, so I didn't know how my experiences working at universities would translate.

Then the pandemic started, and I stayed in touch with a lot of people during that time. The following year, the Eagles brought me in to their football operations rotational internship during training camp while I was still working at Princeton. Coach Faggiano really trusted and supported me to do that. I had my hand in everything: team operations, team travel, scouting operations, equipment, etc. Then one day, one of the scouts asked me if I wanted to sit in on one of their personnel meetings. After that opportunity, I immediately went to my supervisor and said, "I want to be a scout." I knew this was it.

I went back to Princeton after that internship and, along with my operations responsibilities, I added a lot of recruiting responsibilities to my plate, which led to being the Bill Nunn Scouting Fellow for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Again, it was another amazing experience -- and in warm weather.

I again returned to Princeton and met some people who worked for the Patriots. So, after six years at Princeton, I made the move to the NFL with the Patriots in May 2023.

What does your current role entail?

A scouting assistant is primarily an extra hand for the college and pro scouting departments. I am in-house and I wear many hats. I don't really have a set schedule, so I work on the fly a lot of the time. On a typical day, I work on the back end with the college scouts, so that's helping the road scouts with school visits. If there are changes in a school's practice times, I'll alert them. I help coordinate that stuff. Right now, we are watching a lot of pro days and making sure we have the back research on all of the prospects. I am double-checking all of the players, their strengths and weaknesses. We help keep the scouting department afloat.

I would love to move into a pro or college scouting role one day. Whatever role the team would need from me, I'd love to fill that role. And one day, I would love to work with the head coach and GM on roster management, game needs and daily operations of our team. That starts with being a scouting assistant, which is where a lot of GMs start, as well.

Was there a learning curve for you in the move from operations to scouting?

I can't speak for everyone, but for me, the transition from college to the NFL and from team operations to scouting was 100 percent a learning curve. You have to learn the correct terminology when explaining and describing a player. You have to get back to basics. I worked in football for 10 years, so the game of football wasn't new, but some of the terminology was new. So, I had to look at football from a different perspective.

In college, it was a lot about how a player's character fit our team. Now it's about character and how a player's skill set in the run or pass games fits our team's needs? With a lot of support from scouts and coaches here, I've been able to do that.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Transitioning into being a scout, I had to play catch-up a bit. Learning the terminology and finding my voice was the biggest thing for me. Getting comfortable voicing my opinion in a room full of scouts who have far more experience than I do, and finding a new sense of confidence, especially if my opinion doesn't match those of others. The big part of scouting is having a lot of different opinions come together to form one. That's still a challenge, learning and speaking up for myself and feeling confident in my opinion.

Let's pivot to mentorship. Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career, and what advice have they given you?

There are so many people who've helped me along the way, and I'm very lucky to have a great group of scouts and coaches around me now. Advice that I get a lot is there is no job too small and always ask questions. It's so easy to say that, but I have to remind myself of that now.

I also rely on my family a lot. I have an older sister, Melissa, and young brother, Malcolm, who are fearless in everything they do. I'm kind of the one who makes a plan and a checklist for everything. They are confident and they give me a lot of confidence. They influence me a lot in my everyday decisions and how I live my life.

Turning the page forward, do you have any advice for women who are interested in a career similar to yours?

I have so much advice: be coachable, open-minded, ask questions and put in the work. There's no room for negative self-talk. You have to be your biggest advocate and fan. It can get tough sometimes, but if negative talk does come in, you have to have your support circle to guide you. You cannot do this job alone.

That's great advice. Lastly, what are you most proud of?

When I was at Utica, I had a goal of being director of football operations. I did that at Princeton. When I discovered I wanted to be an NFL scout, that became my new goal, a goal which I felt was in a different universe. I worked hard and I'm so proud of myself for getting this job. I worked hard for it.

I recently went to the Holy Cross and Boston College pro days, and at one point, I was reading participants' measurements aloud to like 20 other scouts -- all male except for Kathleen Wood of the Cleveland Browns. At one point, I glanced at her and almost started smiling. I was over the moon in that moment. It was better than going undefeated at Princeton in 2018, getting that phone call for my current job now. I'm still so proud of that.

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