Patriots hire first full-time female scout in 64-year franchise history

By Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Breakthrough hire: When longtime Princeton football coach Bob Surace received a call from Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh about a week before the 2023 draft, he figured it was a last-minute check-in on receiver Andrei Iosivas (sixth round, Cincinnati Bengals).

To his surprise, that wasn’t Groh’s primary intention.

Instead, Groh was seeking information on one of Surace’s ace behind-the-scenes staff members: director of football operations Maya Ana Callender, who had emerged as a leading candidate for an entry-level scouting assistant job in New England.

Over the next 45 minutes, Surace raved to Groh about her “phenomenal” performance, which contributed to a groundbreaking hire a few weeks later — Callender, a 2016 graduate of Utica College, is believed to be the first full-time female scout in the Patriots’ 64-year history.

Surace points to Callender’s 2021 training-camp fellowship with the Philadelphia Eagles, which was part of a wider NFL initiative aimed at providing more exposure and opportunity for women, as a key turning point.

“Her whole background had been operations and she was really good at it, but they gave [fellows] different areas of the organization to work and one of them was the scouting piece. She called me from Philadelphia, and I could hear the joy in her voice,” Surace recalled.

“It’s almost like ‘You really like this [operations side], and that’s where you saw your career going, but you didn’t know this other possibility was there.’”

When Callender returned to Princeton for the 2021 preseason, she made growth in scouting a priority, in addition to her primary operations job that covered everything from booking team travel and hotel accommodations to coordinating coaches’ meeting times and field schedules.

“She was able to carve out time almost every day to practice the craft of evaluating. She would look at NFL games, evaluate players and learn scout-speak — the language of talking about somebody’s reach, length, production, how they use their hands. … She would have a pad out at our practices, taking notes,” Surace said.

“She became our pro/NFL liaison, so every time a scout came in — which was probably 50 times last year, every team came in at least once — she set them up. She talked about the players, their injury histories, how she had evaluated their performances. Then, by the time the scouts got to me, they didn’t have a lot of questions. I was kind of irrelevant on that, which was a new thing for me. She was terrific.”

Surace has served as Princeton’s coach since 2010, posting a career record of 91-50. Prior to that, he was an assistant offensive line coach with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2002 to 2009.

As a young Bengals assistant, Surace said he studied the Patriots and noted their approach of hiring “highly intelligent” candidates who weren’t always coming from the highest level of football “but had this hunger to be successful and learn and grow.”

He has attempted to do the same at Princeton, which was how Callender was initially hired, sparked by a recommendation from Princeton alum and former NFL executive Marc Ross.

“We’re not the NFL. We have a small staff, so they’re given lots of duties. For some of them like Maya, they rise to the top,” Surace said. “To her credit, she started from the ground up and really put herself in great position to take this next step.”

There were 33 full-time female scouts employed by teams in 2022, according to the NFL.

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