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Next Woman Up: Sarah Mallepalle, Strategic Football Analyst for the Dallas Cowboys


Women are rising up the ranks throughout professional football, earning positions of power in a space that for too long was ruled almost exclusively by men. We're seeing more and more women breaking barriers in the sport, but what are the stories beyond the headlines? Who are the women shaping and influencing the NFL today? Answering those questions is the aim of the Next Woman Up series. While the conversational Q&As are edited and condensed for clarity, this is a forum for impactful women to share experiences in their own words. Without further ado, we introduce:

Sarah Mallepalle, Dallas Cowboys

Position: Strategic Football Analyst

How did you get your start in a career in football?

When I was a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, I used to tweet about football analytics, so I got connected to a lot of staffers in the NFL through Twitter connections. In May 2019, I received a message from a manager at the Baltimore Ravens, who were looking to add an analyst to the team. I interviewed and started full-time as a player personnel analyst at the beginning of training camp in 2019, and I was with the team for four seasons and four drafts. When John Park got hired by the Dallas Cowboys in June 2023 as the director of strategic football operations, I joined his team a week later.

Where did your love for football and/or analytics come from?

I have always loved football, and the story I always tell is this: My parents got married in 1985, and that's when my dad came to the United States from India. He talks a lot about how his first experiences feeling like an American was through watching the 1985 Chicago Bears. He especially loved Walter Payton, and he fell in love with the game immediately. Throughout my life, he's told me the way to becoming an American is through sports. I grew up watching football with him and fell in love with the game, as well.

I went to college at CMU in Pittsburgh, and Karim Kassam, who ran the analytics department for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, spoke in one of my classes during my sophomore year. We come from very similar areas of study, and from that day on, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue with my degree in statistics and computer science.

Those are great stories. Looking at your current role, what does it entail?

There is in-season and out-of-season work. During the season, which is training camp through the postseason, my primary focus is assisting our offense, supporting our coaches and players during the week and on gamedays. It is a very regimented schedule. I am meeting with offensive coaches to see what kind of support they need weekly, analyzing our next opponent or from two weeks out, doing our own self-scouting and also in unit and position meetings. There is a constant barrage of requests on how we can become 1 percent better. For example, we might be looking at certain tendencies of our opponents, whether we want to implement certain things into our own game plan or how we fare in a particular game situation over a specific span of games. It's constantly buzzing, and I love it.

During the offseason, we are primarily focused on the draft and roster-building, supporting our scouts leading up to the draft. I went to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine this year, and I am doing anything I can do to save our scouts even a few minutes of time, whether that's pulling up certain stats or organizing information on prospects. Right now, we are doing prospect rankings and assisting our staff with prospect measurables and stats, providing value for the draft in that way.

Sarah Mallepalle stands on the sideline during a Cowboys game during the 2023 NFL season. (Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Sarah Mallepalle stands on the sideline during a Cowboys game during the 2023 NFL season. (Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)

Let's turn to mentorship. Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career?

My boss, John Park. I met him at the combine in 2023. We talk a lot about faith and football, service and leadership. What I appreciate the most about him is he's not only analytical, but he's an elite communicator and people person. I've learned a lot about life from him, and he's helped me grow as a Christian and in my career.

Another is Sam Ventura, the vice president of hockey strategy and research for the Buffalo Sabres. He was one of my professors at CMU, and he's mentored countless students about careers in sports. A career in sports was something I wanted to pursue, but I didn't necessarily know how to go about it. Everything I did in college was guided by him, and I am where I am today because he was one of the first people to invest in my career.

Now looking forward, what advice do you have for other women looking to get into a similar career?

In regard to analytics, there are a lot more avenues now for women to get their names out there than there was when I first got into the league just five years ago. The NFL has the Big Data Bowl put on by Mike Lopez, the NFL's senior director of data and analytics, and he's someone who is helping surface new names from that event, helping people who might not have traditional sports backgrounds get into the NFL. There are also more sports analytics conferences now -- it feels like there are new ones popping up every year -- and what's promising is there are more analytics positions every year.

Lastly, what are you most proud of in your career?

I'm proud of how much my football knowledge has grown in Baltimore and Dallas. I have learned so much from everyone around me with the Cowboys -- how coaches and scouts evaluate players and talent and how they approach the game.

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