One-on-one with new offensive quality control coach Callie Brownson

by Justin Kramer | 9/14/18 2:00am

Dartmouth Football made a landmark signing on Tuesday, hiring Callie Brownson to assume the role of offensive quality control coach. Brownson will be the first full-time female coach in Division I football after demonstrating her extensive playing and coaching skills and a fierce passion for the game. Prior to securing the full-time position, Brownson had been assisting the team throughout a two-week internship in Hanover during the preseason under invite from head football coach Buddy Teevens ’79. Teevens recruited her and Chenell “Soho” Tillman-Brooks for the internship out of the Manning Passing Academy, where they served as two of 16 women at the first women’s clinic. 

Brownson has extensive experience both on and off the field. She was an assistant coach at her alma mater, Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Virginia, for three seasons and worked as a college and professional scouting intern for the New York Jets this past summer. Despite being denied a spot on her high school football team, Brownson starred as a five-time team captain and four-time All-American for the D.C. Divas of the Women’s Football Alliance from 2010-17. Over that time frame, Brownson won two gold medals with Team U.S.A. women’s football and got her bachelor’s degree in sports management from George Mason University in 2015.

Can you describe the process of how you got the position as the offensive quality control coach?

CB: I met Coach Teevens down in Louisiana. I was asked to come and work the first ever Manning Passing Academy for women and girls, so me and a bunch of other women who have a background playing and coaching in football got together, went down there and didn’t really know what to expect. We just went down and met Coach Teevens the first day and he was really energetic and really excited that women were involved in the game at that level and capacity. We met, made a great connection, and I told him that I really wanted to work in football. I had done an internship with the New York Jets, and I wanted to continue pursuing a full time career in football. We got back in touch about a week or so after the camp, and he threw the idea of an internship at me. I said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll do whatever I can to get there,’ came up for the internship in preseason and just engulfed myself, and I’m really thankful to Teevens for creating an open environment for me to come in, and he really facilitated a full experience. I was immersed into every facet of the game  —  the operations side, the coaching side, the breakdown side. I got to learn a lot from the coaches, and then he surprised me and offered me the position to stay on full time. 

What attracted you to Dartmouth?

CB: Other than getting to know him, I really bought into Coach Teevens as a person, and you translate that to how they are as a coach. On top of that, the common knowledge of Dartmouth and their stance on being progressive and forward-thinking and being open to being innovative was very appealing to me as well. In my mind, to take that leap toward furthering my career, a place like this with a coach like that seemed like the best possible situation.

How has it been gelling with the rest of the coaching staff in your short time here so far?

CB: It’s been phenomenal. I remember my first day coming in for the internship and getting to meet everybody, and everybody was really excited. They’ve been awesome. I came in at a pretty difficult time. A lot of people who are hired to be in my position come in during the spring for spring ball and get to gel, mesh, see how these coaches like things and how the system works. I came in right off the jump. The team was in full go in training camp, and now I’m here for week one of the regular season for my full time position. A lot people would be at a disadvantage with that timeframe. I’m not because of the staff; they’ve been phenomenal and have been teaching me a lot and coaching me through some stuff so that I can do my best job. That’s definitely something I’m really grateful for.

How did you first fall in love with football and get into it when you were younger?

CB: My dad is a sports guy, and he went to the University of Miami, so growing up, we watched Hurricanes football back in the ’90s in the Larry Coker days when they were the team to beat. I grew up always loving football. I wanted to play when I was younger. I got to play when I was about 10 or 11, and I tried to play again in high school and got the “no.” That was back in a time when women playing football was really unheard of, and it just didn’t happen. When I got out of high school and went into college was when I heard about the women’s game, and to me, it was this surreal second chance to be able to play a sport that I was so passionate about anyways as a fan, and I was always kind of athletic. That’s when I got hooked up with the women’s professional team. I was 19, and that took my love and passion for the game to another level and opened the doors that got me here. 

Can you describe what your experience was like while playing for the D.C. Divas from 2010-17?

CB: I was very young, I was in college and I had played competitive softball in high school, so I wanted to play competitive sports again. I wanted to still be involved. I heard about the team, went and tried out and the rest was a crazy whirlwind — it flew by. It’s a phenomenal organization in the women’s football world and a lot of people don’t know a whole lot about the women’s football world, but the team in D.C. is one of the most prestigious programs. It revamped my love for the game in being able to play at a high level surrounded by a family of people, and it was great. As a part of it, we won two national championships, and I got linked up with Team U.S.A. and was able to play overseas twice. In that gap of time, my football knowledge and experience increased substantially. 

When did you figure out you wanted to move into football coaching, and what is your coaching background?

CB: In my time playing with the Divas, I got linked up at my high school alma mater actually. To be honest, at that time, being a female coach in football, unless you’re coaching at the women’s level was unheard of, so I never really thought about it. It wasn’t until that conversation that I said I would love to. I love the X’s and O’s of football. I love the schematics and the technicalities of it. To me, it’s kind of cool to look back on because it was this whole evolution in my mindset: “Can women really coach guys?” And it wasn’t “can they?” You just didn’t think about it because I knew that women were capable, and we had the football knowledge. For me it was unheard of then. That was a launch; I owe the head coach a lot for that, for saying something and flipping that mindset for me.

Have you found it different to coach men having played with women for most of your career?

CB: It’s the little things that you deal with in interactions, how you communicate and so forth, but nothing too significant. I think the great thing about a sport like football is that it is kind of a universal language, and when you’re talking football to a guy or a girl, you’re talking football. I’ve never really seen this huge difference in the two. The passion is there, the want and the will to be there is there and how you coach is individual to yourself anyways. I’ve never really seen a big difference between the men and the women.

What does it mean to you to be the first full-time female Division I football coach?

CB: Don’t get me wrong: it’s a really cool thing. It’s something I’m really honored to have, but I don’t like to have the mentality of “the first this.” To me, it’s not a trophy. I like to word it, “the first of many.” It’s not a decoration. It’s not a trophy for me. I’m very happy to have the opportunity, and hopefully, this sets an example for other colleges to follow behind it. 

You mentioned in high school you weren’t able to play football. Today, what motivates you to stay in the football business after that challenge and others?

CB: Of course it’s been hard to be a female in football —  it’s a masculine-dominated sport. What’s motivated me is the people who do say “no” because as far as I was concerned, I was given a propulsion board to get started in this from that high school coach. This is important to do because it changes the culture, it changes the dialogue, it changes the conversation. The fact of the matter is there’s absolutely no reason why women can’t be involved in football. There’s no doubt in my mind that the culture has to change, the conversation has to change. As many times as I’ve been said “no” to, I’m the kind of person who is going to turn it around and show you why the answer should be “yes.” You just have to keep banging on the door until somebody answers it, and that’s the struggle of being a female in the football world; you’re going to be told no, there are going to be some locked doors, but you have to be the best version of yourself when that door does open.

You mentioned earlier that you worked with the New York Jets. How was your experience working for them as a college and professional scouting intern?

CB: That was pretty awesome. I was there for about six and a half weeks of training camp and my daily tasks were to assist all of the scouts, college and pro side. I owe them a ton because a lot of the knowledge that I got for the scouting part, for the film breakdown part really came from there. They were very hands on. They could have taken that internship as a way to say, “Here’s some busy work,” or “Go get us coffee”  —  it was the complete opposite. It was, “Here’s some tasks. We’re going to teach you how we do it at the pro level, and then go have some fun with it.”  It felt like a year, two years worth of a curriculum. It really transformed me in a different facet of football and having a football mind in a way that I didn’t even think existed. 

Have you gotten to meet the team a lot yet? If so, how has that been?

CB: The players have been great. The first day that we got here for the internship, every single one we would walk by would introduce themselves. They knew we were coming. They were very welcoming, and never once did I get a negative or judgemental vibe. They were all just very curious. “What’s your background? How did you get started in football?” For them it was a curiosity thing not a doubt thing, and that was great. We got to tell our stories, and then we got to hear their stories. They’ve been huge proponents for continuing this whole experience, and I think that it speaks volumes for Dartmouth football, it speaks volumes for the students that Dartmouth brings in for how great they were when we showed up.

What will be your specific role over the season as offensive quality control coach?

CB: I’m basically a support coach. I can’t do any of the on-field stuff because NCAA rules prohibit that, but I can help with the film breakdown in a data sense. I can help with a lot of those things to support the coaches for their on-field activities. I can set up drills and I can do all of that stuff.

What are your hopes for the team in the coming season?

CB: Well, we’re going to win the Ivy League Championship, obviously. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. We’re going to win the Ivy. This is a great team to get it done, a great coaching staff to get it done. The feel, the vibe, the motivation and the passion to get it done is here, so there’s no doubt in my mind.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.