The Washington Football Team has hired Natalia Dorantes to fill the newly created role of chief of staff, making her the first Latina to ascend to that position in the NFL, the franchise announced Tuesday.
Out of 32 teams, 20 have a chief of staff, though some have a different title for that role. It can also be called director of coaching operations or assistant to the head coach.
Dorantes, 26, is the third woman to become chief of staff (or the equivalent) for an NFL team. Callie Brownson, chief of staff for the Cleveland Browns, and Sarah Hogan, coordinator of head coach operations for the Atlanta Falcons, are the only other women to hold those roles.
Dorantes' journey to Washington
When Dorantes first contacted Washington head coach Ron Rivera, she wasn't looking for a job. She was working as a creative recruiting coordinator at Texas A&M, and was attending the NFL women's careers in football forum in February. She told The Athletic she messaged Rivera during the opening session of the forum to thank him for being there to represent Latinos and support women in the NFL. At first, it didn't go quite as planned.
“I’m not afraid of anything, so I just did it,” Dorantes told The Athletic. “I introduced myself … and I’m a very proud Latina, and that’s the first thing I said. ‘As another Hispanic, I think it’s great that you’re in football because there’s not many of us, so thank you for that, and thank you for being on the forum. It shows a lot that you’re here supporting us.’
“I didn’t ask for a job. … I just wanted to introduce myself, and then he actually didn’t respond the first time. I don’t know if he knows this, but like 20 minutes later, towards the end, I copy-and-pasted the exact same message and then he responded.”
Fortunately, things got better from there. Rivera knew exactly who she was when he saw her message because an NFL agent had told him about her a year ago and praised her communication and organization skills.
Rivera was looking for someone with those skills. He'd never had a chief of staff before, but he knew he needed someone who could handle a lot of details and communicate and coordinate with multiple departments. He needed someone who understood football so they could schedule practices and meetings, help with the daily medical report, and work with the equipment manager. Most of all, he needed someone strong he could trust to be his voice when he wasn't there.
After flying Dorantes in for an interview and conferring with his wife Stephanie, Rivera knew Dorantes was the right person for the job.
“This is kind of new ground for us, because I’ve never had a quote-unquote chief of staff,” Rivera told The Athletic. “I needed a person that is going to be able to interact with coaches, with coordinators, and may have to say quite honestly, ‘No, I don’t think Coach wants that,’ or, ‘No, Coach doesn’t want that.’ Because the one thing that I want her to understand is that she’s going to have my voice. And I trust her, and that’s why it was important for me to have Stephanie to follow up and tell me, ‘Go on, Ron, you can trust her.’ That’s one of the things that also came across when I talked to her references was that man, she’s very trustworthy.”
Rivera strongly supports NFL women's forum
Dorantes isn't the first employee Rivera has found through the NFL women's careers in football forum. He first connected with Jennifer King through the workshop, and eventually hired her to be the assistant running backs coach. King was the first Black female assistant positions coach in NFL history. Without the forum, he may have never found either of them.
"What this [forum] does is it puts more than qualified people, sometimes overqualified people, in front of us," Rivera said via the team website. "As you look at these women and you look at their accomplishments and you look what they've done and you look at the willingness to work for nothing to get themselves in front of people because they want the opportunity, I think that's important, and that's why I do it, and it's important to me because I want to make sure I do it right."
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