Chicago Bears player personnel coordinator Ashton Washington is ready to take her game to the next level in her second year on the job  — as soon as she gets back from summer vacation. 

After completing its mandatory minicamp period, the entire Bears organization is currently on a three week vacation before the official start of training camp on July 26. For Washington, an avid reader, that means time to catch-up on her reading list. One of the books she recently finished, Shoe Dog, written by Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight, reminds her of her journey to the NFL. She relates to Knight’s story of resilience and forging his own path.

“[Shoe Dog] made me feel good about what I do now. Taking the chance. Not listening to people,” Washington told The TRiiBE in an interview at Halas Hall. “Someone said that football isn’t a realistic career for a Black woman or a woman of color, or a woman in general, so that means [to me], ‘Okay, I guess I am going to have to show you that I can do this and I will do this and I bring more to the table than you think.’”

Washington said the biggest hurdles she’s had to clear in her career so far are the concerns from doubters questioning her age and experience. Prior to working with the Chicago Bears, Washington’s resume includes working as the director of recruiting operations and creative content at Texas Tech University for seven months, an assistant coach/director of high school relations for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 10 months, and multiple positions with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL— a professional American football minor league — over an eight-month period. 

She was hired to be the Bears’ scouting assistant in 2021, and promoted to player personnel coordinator in 2022. Now as the first full-time woman scout in the Bears’ 103-year history, and simultaneously one of 12 women scouts in the NFL, she acknowledges that she is a trailblazer for women working in the NFL. 

“You can’t really run from [being a trailblazer] because you’re in a space that maybe wasn’t necessarily designed for you to be in.” Washington said. She’s previously been reluctant to participate in interviews to prioritize focusing on her job.

“So for me, it’s just coming in here, proving what I can do and setting a good example,” she continued. “So if they have good things in their mind about me and about females within scouting or in the personnel department, they’re more open and more willing to hire others whether that’s a woman of color or a woman in general. I feel like every day you have to prove your worth for the ones behind you.”

Ryan Poles, the general manager of the Chicago Bears watching team members practicing.
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles watching practice at Halas Hall in June 2023. Photo by Mike Hicks for The TRiiBE.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields tossing a football down the field
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields practicing at Halas Hall in June 2023. Photo Mike Hicks for The TRiiBE.

Inside Halas Hall, Washington has been able to establish positive working relationships with president and CEO Kevin Warren and Bears general manager Ryan Poles, two Black men who are the first to hold their respective positions with the Chicago Bears. She said Poles is an avid reader, just like her, and they recommend books to each other and share jokes. She said seeing these two Black men in leadership positions makes her want to work even harder.  

“When Mr. Warren first got hired, he called me and said, ‘I’m very proud of you. I see what you do, I see how well you handle certain situations and I applaud you and I want you to keep growing and keep learning,’” Washington said. “For the president of a NFL team to say that speaks volumes.”

In her role as the players personnel coordinator, Washington said no two days are exactly alike. 

She scouts both professional and collegiate players; with the offensive line being her favorite position group. 

Throughout the NFL calendar year, she prepares personnel reports for the team on prospective players for major league events such as the NFL Combine, NFL Draft and training camp.

Once a player makes the team’s final game day roster or practice squad, she counts that as a success. “It’s a good feeling,” she said, when coaches praise players she’s scouted for their work ethic and earn the trust of the coaches. 

She credits Poles for establishing a culture of collaboration and efficiency within the scouting department. Although Washington was not at liberty to break down the team’s player evaluation process, she did say a deep passion for football, toughness, and being coachable are parts of the equation.

“Now going into my third season I feel confident, I feel good about what I’m doing,” Washington said. “You’re always learning here.” 

Washington told The TRiiBE she is staying focused on her current job when asked about her future career plans. Unironically, her mindset was similar to that of a second-year NFL player hoping to make their mark on the league. 

“The whole goal was to get to the NFL,” Washington said. “This is where I think you would want to be if you’re a player, coach, or anybody. You want to be the highest level of anything you do. Now that I am here, it’s all about being consistent, being efficient, effective, working with others and working well with different personalities.”

is a freelance contributor for The Triibe.