news broke in July that the New York Giants had just hired the first woman in the NFL franchise’s 95-year history to work full-time in its scouting department and that she played college lacrosse at UMass, you might have assumed Bill Belichick had something to do with it. All roads intersecting football and lacrosse seem to lead back to New England.

"> Former UMass Lacrosse Star Hannah Burnett Loving Life as NFL Scout | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO COURTESY OF ATLANTA FALCONS

Former UMass Lacrosse Star Hannah Burnett Loving Life as NFL Scout


When the news broke in July that the New York Giants had just hired the first woman in the NFL franchise’s 95-year history to work full-time in its scouting department and that she played college lacrosse at UMass, you might have assumed Bill Belichick had something to do with it. All roads intersecting football and lacrosse seem to lead back to New England.

But Hannah Burnett has never encountered Belichick, save for that time he was in the stands for UMass’ game against Holy Cross to support his daughter, Crusaders coach Amanda Belichick. The Massachusetts natives gawked. The Long Islanders rolled their eyes.

“I do love that his daughter is so heavily involved with lacrosse,” confessed Burnett, who grew up a New York Jets fan in Huntington, N.Y.

Burnett’s rapid rise from NFL fan to NFL scout does have at least one connection to the New England Patriots, however. Scott Pioli, who was the director and then vice president of player personnel for the Patriots when they won three Super Bowls from 2001-2008, hired Burnett as a scouting coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 during his latest stop as an NFL executive.

Pioli, now an analyst for NFL Media, also gave current San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers her start in pro football.

“Young men always get the opportunity to be around people with the decision-making power,” Pioli told the New York Times regarding Sowers’ time as a Falcons training camp assistant as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. “This time, it happened for a woman.”

The same thing can be said of Burnett, one of four female full-time scouts in the NFL.

“I’m happy that it’s getting attention for the right reason of helping women progress in the NFL,” Burnett said of her hire. “You’re seeing more and more of it. Every year, it seems someone else is breaking in.”


“I’m happy that it’s getting attention for the right reason of helping women progress in the NFL.”


Burnett charted this course a long time ago, starting with the pen-and-paper draft boards she drew up in high school just for fun. She would research college football players, study their backgrounds and rank them to see how they stacked up.

“I was a total football nerd in that way,” Burnett said.

Burnett credits her father, Matthew, for stoking her passion for football. He would encourage Hannah and her older sister, Molly, to run routes in the backyard while he played all-time quarterback. They binge-watched football on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We were both athletic tomboys,” Burnett said of her sister, who played lacrosse at Monmouth. “We were the sons he never had.”

Burnett committed to play lacrosse at Florida as a freshman in high school. She spent a year in Gainesville before deciding to transfer. Burnett set her sights on UMass not only because she loved the family-like atmosphere coach Angela McMahon had established there, but also because of the school’s prestigious sport management program. Before they even talked about lacrosse, she told McMahon she wanted to work in the NFL.

“She knew what she wanted. She was strong in her convictions,” McMahon said of Burnett, who scored 156 goals in three seasons at UMass and was the team’s captain as a senior in 2018. “Our team revered her. Even today, our current players who had the fortunate experience of playing with her still talk about her leadership skills and her ability to connect so well with so many different people.”








Burnett’s time in Amherst included a run to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament in 2017. That summer, she worked as an intern in the UMass athletic department and at the Buffalo Bills training camp. Her breakthrough came a year later, when she landed a post-graduate internship in the player personnel department for the NFL’s league office in New York. Burnett monitored transactions, reviewed player contracts and communicated with teams about NFL rules under the collective bargaining agreement. The league kept her on as an assistant for three months before she got the job in Atlanta.

“You just need one chance to get in and prove to everyone that you should stay in,” she said. “Half the battle is getting that foot in the door.”

Burnett provided operational support for the Falcons’ scouting department, scheduling workouts for prospects, cutting up film for the staff, facilitating the team’s activity at the NFL Combine and writing reports in preparation for the NFL Draft. She did that for nearly two years before being promoted to a full-time position with the Falcons.

Burnett learned by watching and listening. At every stop, she asked questions. She met her current boss, Giants director of college scouting Chris Pettit, while she was still an intern in the league office. They talked for three hours about the life of a scout. She was a sponge during the Falcons’ December scouting meetings, noting how they talked about the players, the emphasis they placed on body-typing and character assessment and the nuances of developing sources.

Who knew one could become a professional football nerd?

“I’ve had moments here in my apartment where I’m sitting here watching film and I’ll call my dad,” said Burnett, who moved to Kansas City in July after the Giants hired her as a full-time scout for the Midlands area. “I get to watch football for a living. Like, this is my job. This is everything I could ask for.”




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


Like college lacrosse coaches, NFL scouts are still trying to get up to speed due to the cancelation of the spring season. There were no spring football practices or games to watch. For the last two months, Burnett has conducted Zoom interviews with the prospects in her territory, which includes many Big Ten and Big 12 schools. She wakes up at 6 and does not go to sleep until midnight some days, often losing track of time while buried in film. Under normal circumstances, her fall schedule would be filled with college football practices and school visits. But the lingering specter of the COVID-19 pandemic means she will be limited to watching games for the time being. The NFL just approved travel for scouts, but they’ll have to observe games from the distance of a press box or club suite.

Burnett will be on the road every weekend from now until the first week of December. “I’m really excited to finally get boots on the ground in some way, shape or form,” she said.

But as Burnett learned as a two-year understudy, an NFL scout gathers the most valuable information on a player by watching what he does in practices and before games.

“Say I’m going to watch Kansas play Missouri. Without COVID, you’d be able to be on the field pregame and watch them warm up. You learn so much about a player in those moments,” she said. “He’s stretching. How flexible is he? He’s an offensive lineman. Is he able to touch his toes? When you see him get up, is he athletic or laboring to get off the ground? He doesn’t look like a good mover. Why is he stiff? Well, he’s knock-kneed. What kind of muscle tone does he have? Is he high-hip? You can hear them talk. Does he have juice? Is he getting his teammates pumped up or is he in the back of the line?”

Burnett also offered the example of a running back that doesn’t have many receptions.

“He doesn’t really catch the ball in the backfield, but during pre-game drills, he might be sitting there just catching the ball. You can see his hands,” she said. “He does have good hands. He’s just not used in the passing game. You can learn so much pregame.”

Burnett, 25, has allowed herself a few pinch-me moments during her time in the NFL. She got slack-jawed watching Julio Jones run routes and marveled at the sheer mass of Derrick Henry. “That man is huge. He’s a tank,” she said. “That’s what a running back is supposed to look like.”

But she actually prefers the less glamorous parts of the profession.

“I am extremely independent. I’ve always been that way. I like being in my own space,” she said. “You have to be OK with being on the road for a week and in hotel rooms grinding film. But you also have to build relationships with sources and people. So much of what we do is relationship building.”

The life of an NFL scout does not allow much time to pick up a lacrosse stick. Save for a few pickup box games in Atlanta and the annual UMass alumni weekend, Burnett seldom plays anymore. But McMahon wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a lacrosse-to-football story of Belichickian magnitude.

“Continue to track her. This isn’t the end for her by any means,” McMahon said. “She’s going to continue to move up the ladder.”