Each year the National Football League (NFL) works to develop a stronger, more diverse pipeline with an effort to allow candidates the opportunity to be considered for various football operations roles within NFL clubs. Today, it was announced that 122 coaches participated in the 2021 Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship and 25 aspiring scouts participated in the 2021 Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship. Of the total, 32 Bill Walsh fellows and 9 Nunn-Wooten fellows are NFL Legends.
The Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, named after late Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh, provides NFL coaching experience to talented minority college coaches, high school coaches and former players. Designed as a vocational tool to increase the number of full-time NFL minority coaches, all 32 NFL clubs have participated since its inception in 1987.
The Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, launched in 2015, exposes NFL Legends, former college football players, and those currently working in college football to a career in scouting. The program gives participants a unique glimpse into player personnel by introducing them to various areas related to both college and professional scouting.
According to a press release, there are currently 58 Bill Walsh fellows from the last five years coaching in the NFL today, in part due to coaches like Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team’s Head Coach. As a member of the Bill Walsh Advisory Council, Rivera has consistently shown great commitment to the fellowship and demonstrated support for the mission behind the program.
“I believe the impact that the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship and Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship has had on our game is truly remarkable, it has opened up so many opportunities for coaches and personnel executives that otherwise may not have gotten them, especially men and women of color” said Washington Football Coach Ron Rivera. “These fellowships both give deserving men and women the opportunity to get their foot in the door and pursue a career that they are passionate about. As someone who took part in an NFL coaching internship to start my career, I appreciate that by getting that opportunity, I earned everything I’ve achieved from that point on.”
These fellowships also serve to help former collegiate football players and NFL Legends, including Orlando Franklin and Clint McMillian get back into the game. Franklin, a former seven-year NFL veteran, interned with the 49ers this past summer. At the end of his fellowship, Franklin accepted a coaching position in San Francisco. Former Florida State defensive tackle Clint McMillan was brought on to the Titans staff following the end of his fellowship with the club.
This year through the Nunn-Wooten Fellowship, the Chicago Bears hired their first full-time female scout, Ashton Washington. Washington entered training camp as a player personnel intern as part of the fellowship and now works in a full-time scouting role, demonstrating the focused development this fellowship offers and the growing strength of the NFL’s pipeline.
“The annual Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching and Nunn-Wooten Scouting fellowships provide us with an excellent resource to further support diversity and inclusion across our Football Operations opportunities, as well as work alongside talented up-and-coming coaches and scouts” said Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace. “We have made several full-time hires through the program, most recently Ashton Washington as Scouting Assistant. She is an incredible addition to the club and her strong recruiting and operations experience across numerous levels of play brings a unique and valued perspective to our scouting team. We’re proud to be taking an important step as we continue to build upon our efforts to show that football is for everyone.”
While most fellowships occur during Training Camp, minicamp, or organized team activities, some clubs choose to extend their Fellows into the season. The extensions of these fellowships highlight clubs’ continued dedication to developing a diverse pipeline of personnel. For the Bill Walsh Fellowship, these clubs include: the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Tennessee Titans. As for the Nunn-Wooten Fellowship, the extensions came from the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers.
In addition to the annual in-person fellowships, virtual programs were established in 2020 and continued this year as an additional development opportunity. These virtual sessions, hosted by coaches and personnel executives at clubs, focused on advancement and mentorship, providing an opportunity for minority coaches and scouts to further their skillset, enhance their knowledge of the game, and engage with other colleagues around the league.
This year’s speakers for the virtual Bill Walsh Fellowship programs included:
· Atlanta Falcons Special Teams Coordinator Marquice Williams,
· Cleveland Browns Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Brandon Lynch,
· Tampa Bay Buccaneers Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thad Lewis, and
· Washington Football Team Head Coach Ron Rivera.
This year’s speakers for the virtual Nunn-Wooten Fellowship programs included:
· Kansas City Chiefs Executive Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles,
· Minnesota Vikings National Scout Chisom Opara, and
· Philadelphia Eagles Director of Player Personnel Brandon Brown.
For more information on the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship head to https://operations.nfl.com/inside-football-ops/players-legends/nfl-player-engagement/support-for-players-on-and-off-the-field/bill-walsh-diversity-coaching-fellowship/
For more information on the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship head to https://operations.nfl.com/inside-football-ops/players-legends/nfl-player-engagement/support-for-players-on-and-off-the-field/nunn-wooten-scouting-fellowship/