Gina Newell, Detroit Lions Senior Director of Football Operations

How did you start your football career?

My friend’s aunt worked in recruiting for the University of Michigan football program, so in the first week of my freshman year, I approached the department and asked about it. They didn’t take freshmen at the time, but they put me on the Blue Team and asked if I wanted to answer the switchboards during lunch. I did that and it got me into the building more. I spent very few hours recruiting, but I was always answering the phones. In my second year, I worked 20-25 hours at the recruiting office and got paid. It gets out of there. Then, right after I finished my master’s degree, I took over the recruiting office full time in Michigan for two years.

Then a woman I had gone to grad school with was working for the Detroit Lions as a coaching administrator. She called me and asked if there were any student volunteers who were interested in having a job with the league. Steve Mariucci was the team coach at the time and he asked Michigan coach Lloyd Carr about me. I didn’t even have to interview for the job; I just came on board and took the job with the coaching staff as an administrative assistant in 2004.

How has your role changed from when you first came in to now?

It seemed like the only way women got into the league for a long time was as administrators or secretaries. That was how I started. I had done a lot of work with the coaching staff at Michigan, and once you start working with them, they tend to come to you for everything. So, in Detroit, I mainly worked with the defensive coaches and special teams coordinator Chuck Priefer. Chuck wasn’t very computer savvy and drew everything by hand: kickoff returns, kickoff coverage, punt return, field goal block. He would take them and use this archaic old drawing software called CorelDRAW and draw the whole thing. I basically drew the entire scouting report for special teams. It was much. I wanted to quit after two weeks, but it was good for me because I learned a lot. I love special teams to this day. I also helped the defense with scripts, game books, and helping them get supplies. Basically, I helped manage the coaching staff.

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I stayed in that entry level position for a long time. Nobody knew what to do with me. I was very good at my job, but there was nowhere else to look beyond that job. We were going into what was going to be the final season with head coach Jim Schwartz, and the mother of a friend of mine was the president of the Detroit Media Partnership (now called Michigan.com) and she needed an assistant. I interviewed and decided to take the job, but it was an incredibly difficult decision for me because once you leave sports, you usually can’t do it again. I chose to make that decision and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. done. I learned that my skills translate to sports, I gained a lot of confidence and increased my salary.

After a year there, then-Lions general manager Martin Mayhew called me in 2014 and told me they were going to hire Jim Caldwell. Jim had someone in mind for him to be his assistant, but Martin argued why he thought Jim and I would work very well together. So I interviewed Jim and within 30 seconds I knew I wanted this job and I wanted to work for him. I got back to the Lions before I left the building. I worked for him and the entire coaching staff, many of whom were in Michigan with me. He felt like family with guys like Bill Sheridan and Teryl Austin.

When the Lions hired Bob Quinn as general manager in 2016, he immediately came to my office and asked me why I didn’t have a contract and told me they were going to change my title. That’s when I first got a director’s degree and he let me know there were other things he could do. When you work with a coaching staff, you’re very connected to everyone in the building, and it was through that that I learned how other departments are run, which helped me transition into new roles.

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