UNM football’s equipment manager breaks glass ceiling

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The UNM football team put in hard work on the field Wednesday, but off the field a whole other team is hard at work.

They’re led by Ashley Nowak, the team’s equipment manager.

“It’s been great. It’s honestly, you know, 20 years ago you know, when I was in middle school, high school, I would never have thought I would have ever left the Chicago land area,” she said about the traveling she’s gotten to do on the job; including the big move to the Southwest. 

She became a Lobo in March, but her passion for managing equipment goes back much further.

“It started off as a job in college that I didn’t even realize that could get paid for,” she said about making a living from her passion.

Nowak is one of only four Division I college football equipment managers that are women, and she’s used to being the only woman.

“This past January of 2022 was my first time being there, and there were only three females in the room,” she said about her first time at the Athletic Equipment Managers Conference.

But being a lone woman in what’s typically a man’s world has never stopped her.

“I’ve definitely had people underestimate me and, and then very quickly learned, ‘oh, yep don’t underestimate her’ and it feels good,” she says on standing as a lone woman a lot of the time.

UNM head coach, Danny Gonzales, didn’t underestimate her.

“If you’re qualified to do the job, and you can do it to the expectation, then it shouldn’t matter and that’s how I view it,” he said about the easy decision to hire her.

Her job is mostly unknown and behind the scenes, and it doesn’t stop when the last whistle blows. 

Nowak oversees everything from helmets to shoes to lots and lots of laundry. And to any woman who’s been the only woman, Nowak had some advice.

“Just do it, follow your dreams, don’t let anybody stand in your way,” she said. 

The Lobos are on the road Saturday playing Air Force. 

Nowak has been prepping for the trip all week.