Skip to main content

Next Woman Up: Shelly Harvey, Area Scout for the Atlanta Falcons


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:

Shelly Harvey, Atlanta Falcons

Position: Area Scout

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

I was a track and field athlete at LSU. Everyone goes to the football games every Saturday, and just being around football, I knew I loved it, but didn't know what aspect I wanted to pursue. I met with LSU's athletic director of recruiting during my senior year about the avenues I could take once I graduated. Because I was an athlete, she told me the only thing I could do while in school was volunteer-type work. So once I graduated, I reached out to her again and started working with LSU then as a football recruiting intern. After that season, I moved back home to Houston and stayed about 10 minutes from the University of Houston. I sent emails to Edward Jones II, who was Houston's director of player development, probably every day. He finally brought me onto the staff as a football operations intern for five months. It was then when I heard about an opening as a recruiting coordinator at Tulane University, so that's how I got my first job working under coach Willie Fritz. I did a lot of recruiting and I loved the aspect of athletes coming to you for direction and meeting their families. But I wanted more of a challenge, so I went to former running backs coach Jamaal Fobbs and he would teach me what to look for when scouting running backs.

There weren't a lot of women in scouting at the time, but I reached out to Salli Clavelle, who works in the San Francisco 49ers' scouting department, and tried to follow the same path. I went to the Women's Careers in Football Forum, and even though I didn't have an interview there, I received this random phone call from a 404 area code. I ignored it right away. But I just felt like maybe I should call that number back, so I did. It was Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons' general manager at the time. He asked me if I wanted to interview for a scouting assistant role, a one-year, entry-level position. I was open and honest, telling him I didn't know much but was willing to work and learn. He told me they would teach me everything they could to help me progress. I was there for a few months before the entire regime changed and Terry Fontenot was hired as general manager. With the turnover, it's like my clock started over again, so I stayed in the scouting assistant role for another year before getting promoted to player personnel coordinator. The biggest difference in those two roles is that, in the assistant role, you are doing a lot of grunt work; as a coordinator, I had to learn to delegate and oversee that everything was getting done the right way.

You were promoted to being an area scout in June. What does that job entail?

So our scouting department pre-identifies some college players, but those evaluations have nothing to do with the grades I put on them. I am responsible for scouting the northeast area of the country, so from Pennsylvania and Virginia all the way up to Maine. I left Aug. 28 and was on the road for three months. My typical work week was school visits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, go to games on Fridays and Saturdays, and watch the Falcons play Sundays. Monday was my day off. In the summer, I hit four to five schools per week. During the college season, I hit three or four in a week, and sometimes two in one day.

I essentially get the first look at the player and send in my grade on their on-field ability and character to the scouting department. Area scouts are essentially story tellers, in my opinion. You're trying to piece together a lot of information from what the schools give you and what your other sources tell you. The players can't really speak for themselves until later in the draft process, so you have to paint an accurate picture.

The Falcons haven't had a northeast area scout in a while, so my goal was to have those schools get to know me. I went into their environments, and I wanted them to feel as comfortable talking to me as I wanted to feel coming to their school.

Shelly Harvey, shown during 2023 training camp, just finished her first season as Atlanta's northeast area scout. (Photo courtesy of the Falcons)
Shelly Harvey, shown during 2023 training camp, just finished her first season as Atlanta's northeast area scout. (Photo courtesy of the Falcons)

What would you say is the most challenging part of your position?

When I worked in-house, my day-to-day schedule was given to me. Now, I set my own schedule and you're at the mercy of a school and its practice schedule. You have to adjust on the fly to their schedules. As far as the organization part, you have all of this information, and I have to be diligent, make sure everything is concise and set weekly deadlines to submit my player evaluations.

Another challenge was the travel. I am a Southern girl through and through, and it was my first time in the northeast. Navigating that area was sometimes a challenge. So was building those connections and my network, whether that was with other scouts or pro liaisons.

Let's turn to mentorship. Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career?

My track team in high school had this mantra: "Nothing is impossible if you have faith and believe. Therefore, what seems impossible you will achieve." I've used that throughout my career. When talking about mentors, it would be an injustice not to go down the list from where I started. Lauren Davis, whom I met at Tulane, and Keava Soil, who was my boss when I interned with the LSU football program but is now the associate athletic director for player personnel at Baylor, have been big mentors of mine. When I told them what I wanted to do, they constantly checked in to make sure I was still pursuing my goals. They still check in to this day.

It sounds cliché, but it's taken a lot of people to get me here. I would not have made it this far without all of the people here: Terry Fontenot, Ryan Pace, Kyle Smith, Dwaune Jones and all of our area scouts. They have all taken the time to sit down with me and help me learn what I need to know at various times. They have answered all of my questions. To have people who are always willing to sit down, watch tape with me and help me figure this out. I got really lucky to be part of this organization.

Harvey spent the 2022 NFL Draft with the rest of the Falcons' personnel department in Atlanta's war room. (Photo courtesy of the Falcons)
Harvey spent the 2022 NFL Draft with the rest of the Falcons' personnel department in Atlanta's war room. (Photo courtesy of the Falcons)

What advice do you have for other women interested in a career in scouting?

It is a grind, so you have to have a good support system. There will be a lot of Nos and there might be one Yes. It also takes a lot of courage to say you don't know how to do something, instead of going with the flow. But when I finally said I didn't know how to do something, that's truly when my development started. From that point, they knew what I did know and what I didn't know, and they were willing to help me. You have to be vulnerable and honest about where you're at, and that's what will allow you to be flooded with information.

Lastly, what are you most proud of in your career?

I've worked the last three years to be here, and it's hard not to think about what's next. I have to realize there aren't a lot of people like me in this position, so I am enjoying the moment. But also, there's a lot that I want to accomplish.

Related Content