Callie Brownson was nearly through a two-week preseason internship with the Dartmouth football team when the Big Green’s wide receivers went to Coach Buddy Teevens with a proposal.
Dartmouth had an opening for an offensive assistant coach. The players wanted Brownson to fill it, making her college football’s first female full-time Division I coach.
It’s the latest peak in Brownson’s football career, in which she has become an accidental trailblazer for women in football’s highest ranks. She interned in the New York Jets scouting department in the summer of 2017. She’s attended national invitation-only football skills and coaching camps. She’s considered one of women’s professional football’s all-time greats.
Her role at Dartmouth, formally as an offensive quality control assistant, is just the start, she said.
“This is only the beginning of women on the sideline,” she said. “Sure, it’s an honor, but to me it’s not a trophy. It’s something that should have happened a long time ago. And lucky for me, Coach Buddy Teevens believes the same thing.”
Brownson grew up in Alexandria, Va., a football fan from a young age. Some of her first sports memories are watching Southeastern Conference college football games on Saturday afternoons with her dad.
Finally one day when she was old enough, she told him she wanted to play, too, so he signed her up for the local Pee Wee team, and she played running back and defensive back.
But as she got older, football opportunities for girls fizzled out. Coaches at Mount Vernon High School, where she played softball, too, wouldn’t consider allowing a woman on the roster.
“It was a taboo subject back then,” she said. “The school didn’t even want to approach it.”
As soon as she started college at George Mason, she tried out for the D.C. Divas of the professional Women’s Football Alliance and made the team as a wide receiver and utility player.
Franchise owner Paul Hamlin called her a “Swiss Army knife of football.” She took classes and coached the Mount Vernon softball team on the side until the high school’s new football coach asked if she’d consider joining his staff.
“It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about coaching,” she said. “It just wasn’t a possibility back then.”
She worked with the team’s wide receivers and started attending coaching clinics and skills workshops, telling everyone she met: “I’m really, really motivated to continue a career in football.”
She left then rejoined the Mount Vernon football program after a coaching change and helped the Majors develop into one of the Washington area’s most explosive offenses. More and more football higher-ups from around the country noticed, and kept running into her at events.
“She’s a really good coach,” current Majors Head Coach Monty Fritts told anyone who asked about her. “Like a really good coach.”
USA Football invited her to the 2018 Manning Passing Academy, an annual summer quarterbacking summit run by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. Teevens, from Dartmouth, was one of the first coaches she met.
Two weeks later, he called and offered her an internship. Two weeks after that, he hired her full time.
“I’ve heard a lot about the institution and the reputation Dartmouth has for being innovative and forward-thinking,” Brownson said. “I get to experience it for myself.”
“She is a coach who happens to be a female as opposed to a woman who is trying to coach,” Teevens said in a statement announcing her hire. “That distinction became very apparent to my players and coaches. We’ve hired a coach who will better our football program.”
As a quality control assistant, Brownson will assist other coaches in scouting opponents, planning practices and team operations. She is not allowed to directly instruct players in on-field practices due to NCAA rules that restrict the number of coaches teams can hire. It’s an entry-level position, but one used around college football to groom coaching prospects.
Brownson said she isn’t sure what she ultimately wants to accomplish in her football career in part because her coaching ascent has come so quickly and also because she’ll likely be one of — if not the — first woman to hold whatever future position she takes.
“I don’t want to be the first female Division I coach,” she said. “I want to be the first of many.”
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