Former football coach Callie Brownson hired by Buffalo Bills

by Emily Lu | 10/7/19 2:05am

After making national headlines last year as the first female full-time NCAA Division I football coach, Callie Brownson has joined the Buffalo Bills as a full-time offensive coaching intern. Her stint at Dartmouth, albeit brief, not only earned her the respect of players and coaches alike, but also spearheaded efforts towards the inclusion of women in the sport. 

Brownson first came to Big Green football as an intern during the 2018 preseason. Brownson met head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 earlier that summer at the Manning Passing Academy, a prestigious youth football camp. 2018 was the first year the camp hosted a women’s clinic, and Brownson was one of 16 female coaches invited to participate. Impressed with her knowledge of the game, Teevens quickly offered Brownson a two-week internship with Dartmouth football.

The two weeks escalated to a full season as players took it upon themselves to ask Teevens to consider hiring her full-time. 

“What said it all to me was when towards the second week, our players went to Teevens and asked if it was possible that she could have a chance to stay on,” assistant coach Dave Shula ’81 said. “They were very sincere about that; she earned their respect with her knowledge and her energy and the way she communicated.”

While Brownson’s preseason internship entailed taking part in all of the team activities — ranging from game planning to the recruiting process — she was hired as the offensive quality control coach to focus on offensive strategy. The Big Green football team went on to finish second in the Ivy League after a projected sixth place finish.

Brownson worked closely with the wide receivers, including Drew Estrada ’20, who cited her love for the game as something the players were immediately drawn to. With handshakes and catchphrases for her group, she bonded with her players in a way unique from other coaches.

“She’s always been that type of person that loves the game and wants to do anything she can to be a part of the game,” Estrada said. “As football players, we respect that so much because love for the game is one of those intangible things you can’t force on someone.”

Brownson’s passion for the game is not without experience. Her own career began as a standout in youth football, only to be turned away during high school and college because of her gender. However, she made her way back into the sport as a free safety and running back for D.C. Divas of the Women’s Football Alliance, leading her team to two national titles. Brownson has also won two gold medals with Team USA Women’s Football.

While the players quickly took notice of Brownson’s passion towards the game, Estrada referred to another trait as something he learned from Brownson: her energy and excitement about her job.

“For her it was exciting to go to work everyday and exciting to take on new tasks,” Estrada said. “That’s something I’m going to take on with my life down the road, just to appreciate everything you have and every day that you have. She never took a day or minute for granted so I really admire that about her.”

The Big Green football team does not shy away from pioneering changes in the sport. Teevens has led the program to be the first to eliminate tackling in practice and implement mobile virtual players as tackling dummies. Bringing Brownson on only continued to inspire change for other teams. 

“It says that we’re forward thinking, that we’re accepting,” Shula said. “We talk about equality and we back it up with our actions. We have to give Coach Teevens and the College tremendous credit for having that foresight and the willingness to follow through on that.”

Estrada described the moment he found out Brownson was hired by the Bills as bittersweet, explaining that as much as the team loved having her as a coach, “you can’t be mad about it because if you’re in that position, obviously you take that next step in your career.”

Brownson joined the Bills staff in August as a coaching intern. As the third woman to be hired by the Bills in the past four years, doors are slowly swinging open for diversity among football coaches. 

Last August, when Dartmouth football hosted its fifth annual Football 101 camp for young athletes in the community, the girls who participated had someone like them to look up to amongst the coaches and players. NFL senior director Sam Rapoport tweeted a picture of Brownson alongside one of the girls, concluding with #RepresentationMatters.

“I think that’s one of the coolest things, when little girls are like I want to be like her,” Estrada said. “I think that means a lot to her — she’s changing other people’s lives too.”