Broncos executive director of football operations Kelly Kleine: 'I want to inspire women to keep growing in the NFL'

Amid the usually sleepy days of May in the NFL, Kelly Kleine has authored league history.

Hired by the Denver Broncos as the franchise's executive director of football operations and special advisor to the general manager, Kleine is believed to be the highest-ranking female in scouting in NFL chronicle.

It was a move announced Monday by the Broncos and, as the immensity of it has not been lost on Kleine, she hopes it's the precursor to other women in the industry finding their way to new heights.

"It is an absolute honor, but I hope someone passes me up soon," Kleine said, via the team website. "If anything, I hope it does let women know that there are these opportunities across the NFL. You don't have to play football to work in the NFL. I hope I set a positive example for all women who want to break into football. I want to inspire women to keep growing in the NFL and throughout all of sports. It is important to show that women belong in sports. There have been so many women who paved the way for opportunities in this league and in football. I'm thankful to them, and I want to have the same impact for others."

Following an NFL postseason in which a record six female coaches were on the sidelines, Kleine's new and crucial role within the Broncos organization is another distinctly positive step forward for women in the NFL world -- and the sports universe as a whole.

The hiring of Kleine even drew kudos from Billie Jean King, an icon not just in sports for her accomplishments as an all-time great tennis player, but for her decades of work as an advocate for women's rights.

It's certainly quite a first week with the Broncos franchise. Nonetheless, as Kleine makes history, she's well-versed in the history of the franchise she's now tasked with building.

"It's surreal," Kleine said. "There is so much history here at the Broncos, and I am honored to be joining such a well-respected, successful organization. They have an incredible winning tradition, great fans and a special community in Denver that loves this team. I've heard nothing but great things from [Broncos general manager] George [Paton] about everybody here, from Vic Fangio to Joe Ellis to the entire staff. I'm extremely grateful to George, Joe and the entire Broncos organization for this opportunity."

Kleine's debut in Denver follows nine years in Minnesota's scouting department while working under Paton. Within the Vikings organization, Kleine began as a public relations intern and rose to becoming manager of player personnel and college scouting.

"I also want to thank [Minnesota general manager] Rick Spielman and everyone at the Vikings for all of their support to help me get to this point -- I have been privileged to learn and grow from so many outstanding people with the Vikings," Kleine said. "I am ready to get to work and help the Broncos in whatever capacity I can."

As Kleine has made history and is hopeful that she'll be passed up sooner than later, she's likewise leaving behind the history of it all for the work ahead. That's the focus in the here and now -- and the future and its trail to blaze will be taken care of in the process.

"The only thing I am focused on right now is my role here with the Broncos," Kleine said. "I have a ton to learn, so I am excited to just put my head down, jump right in and get to work."

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