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Kelly Kleine joins Broncos as highest ranking female scouting executive in NFL history

Four months after joining the Broncos, general manager George Paton made his first front-office hire, appointing Kelly Kleine as executive director of football operations/special advisor to the general manager.

Kleine, whose first day at the Broncos’ facility was Monday, spent the last nine years with the Minnesota Vikings, where Paton was the assistant general manager.

Kleine, a native of Sheboygan, Wis., will oversee the Broncos’ video and equipment departments and be involved in player evaluation and preparations for free agency and the draft.

According to the NFL, because of her personnel duties, Kleine becomes the highest-ranking female on the scouting side in league history. The Broncos’ announcement stated Kleine will have “significant responsibilities,” in pro/college scouting.

“Kelly is a rising star in the NFL, and we’re fortunate to add someone of her caliber,” Paton said in a statement. “Kelly has a strong understanding of all aspects of football operations and player evaluation along with outstanding leadership qualities.

“She will be a tremendous resource with her experience on the pro and college sides as well as her knowledge of our grading scale and football calendar.”

A key part of Kleine’s job will be helping Paton transition the Broncos’ coaching and scouting staffs to his grading scale; he used the format established by former general manager John Elway for his first draft.

Kleine was a public relations intern for the Vikings in 2012, was a scouting administration intern in ’13 and joined the club full-time as a scouting assistant after graduating from Minnesota. She was promoted to college scouting coordinator from 2015-18 and was player personnel manager/college scout from 2019-20.

Kleine’s scouting duties for the Vikings included the Midwest region (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota). On the administrative side, she coordinated the pre-draft visits as well as the schedules at the combine and all-star games.

In a St. Paul Pioneer Press story last month, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said of Kleine: “She’s a critical part of everything we do. Everything revolves around her in the office on the college side. She makes sure everything is ready for our meetings. She runs the draft board. She does a lot of things and directs a lot of traffic. We probably couldn’t function without her in the room.”

In the Pioneer Press story, Kleine said she had a “basic knowledge,” of football when she joined the Vikings. She credited former Vikings linebacker and 30-year executive Scott Studwell for being instrumental in her development.

“He trained me and he’s like a father figure to me,” Kleine said. “It’s pretty cool to say I got to learn from an NFL legend like that.”

Studwell called Kleine a “pioneer” for women interested in scouting and Spielman said the “sky is the limit” for her.

“She doesn’t have a ceiling,” Spielman said in the Pioneer Press story. “She’s nowhere near where she’s probably going to end up down the road in this business.”

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