Montclair Magazine Holiday 2021 - Page 24

sports
“ Our ownership is really into growing just better men altogether , not just a better football player ,” Lynn , a resident of Bloomfield , says . “ They want someone who is wellbalanced , on and off the field . So , they really let me do whatever Iwant to do .”
And in doing what she does , Lynn is living her dream .
Lynn , 38 , was named the Director of Player Engagement for the New York Giants this spring — the first woman to ever serve in the position . In this role , Lynn serves as alifeline for the dozens of players who cycle through the organization , helping them navigate life in the NFL and beyond .
The person in charge of player engagement for an NFL team works closely with players . For Lynn , that means having an open-door policy : Whenever a New York Giant needs her , she is there . If she doesn ’ t have an answer right away , she ’ ll do what she can to work her resources to find that answer .
That could mean bringing in experts to help a player develop a business plan for a career after football , or financial planners to help athletes better manage their earnings . It could simply mean talking through personal issues and listening to what matters to them outside football — like social justice , their families , furthering their education , or giving back to the community .
“ I like tosee it as , I ’ mthe aunt to probably 65 guys ,” Lynn says with a laugh .
Lynn ’ s path to the Giants has had its share of twists and turns .
She hails from Pasadena , California , and grew up in a “ football family .” Her father , Johnnie Lynn , played in the NFL . When she was in eighth grade , he signed with the Jets , and Lynn ’ s family relocated to Wayne , where they remained . After eight years in the league , Lynn ’ s father decided to go into coaching full-time . His career even included a stint with the Giants .
While at Wayne Hills High School ,
Lynn became a babysitter , and often watched after NFL players ’ children . It was when she was asenior inhigh school , babysitting for former Giant fullback Charles Way , that she got her first taste of player engagement . Way , who Lynn describes as “ one of the best fullbacks we ’ ve had at the Giants ,” was injured and subsequently moved into a player engagement role with the team .
“ They just built this new role ” for him , Lynn says . “ So , as asenior in high school , I asked him , ' Would Ibeable to intern for you for the summer ?' And eventually he let me do that .”
LYNN SHOWS HER TWO SUPER BOWL RINGS SHE EARNED WITH THE GIANTS
Lynn went on to Hampton University in Virginia , where she majored in communications studies with an emphasis on public relations . At first , she envisioned breaking into the music or entertainment industry . But after interning for MTV , she quickly realized she wasn ’ t fulfilled . “ It really was just alot of pushing papers around ,” Lynn says of the gig . “ I wasn ’ t making any type of impact . I wasn ’ t helping anyone . And I feel that Ikind of have that servant in me , that servant role that wants to help other people be great .”
After graduation , Lynn went on to Canisius College in Buffalo , where she received her master ’ s degree in sports administration in 2007 . That same year , she was named aplayer engagement coordinator with the New York Giants . She has been working her way up the ranks since , while settling back in the Garden State . “ I came back because I love it here ,” Lynn says . “ It ’ s a great state to raise kids .”
AWOMANWHO CAN ‘ CRACK THE WALLS ’
Throughout her 14 years with the Giants , Lynn has worked with countless players .
Usually , the director of player engagement role is a position reserved for former NFL players — the idea being that an ex-player could best relate to a current player . For Lynn , the qualities that make her stand out as an individual — her ability to listen and empathize — happen to be what make her good at her job .
At first , Lynn thought being a woman would make it harder for the players to relate — but she was wrong . “ I think probably the biggest obstacle was myself . I didn ’ t think that they would relate to me ,” Lynn says . “ I never played adown in the NFL , but , really , that ’ s my strength when it comes to the locker room — just because everyone else around them is doing football things , and I kind of give them that balance on the other side .”
Players who have worked with Lynn remember their experiences with her fondly . Giants legend and North Jersey native Victor Cruz , who now works in production with the Giants and is a community ambassador for the team , worked with her when he was aplayer , and is now a colleague .
“ Ashley is great because not only does she understand players and where they come from , she can empathize and reach a common ground with us that most couldn ’ t do organically ,” Cruz says . “ Although she felt like ‘ one of us ,’ we still respected her as an authoritative figure and knew that her direction would always lead us in the right direction .”
Russell Shepard , who retired in 2020 after a seven-year career in
22 HOLIDAY 2021 MONTCLAIR MAGAZINE