When Callie Brownson became quality control coach for Dartmouth’s football team, she had no idea she was making history as the first full-time female Division I football coach.
Even now, after all the attention, including stories by the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and The Washington Post, Brownson said the whirlwind is still difficult to believe.
“To me, it was kind of crazy there hadn’t been another female coach at this level,” she said.
That Brownson was the first did not surprise those who knew her at George Mason University, from where she graduated in 2016 with a degree in Health, Fitness and Recreation Resources.
Charley Casserly, the former Redskins general manager who taught Brownson in a sport management class, called her a self-starter, detail oriented and smart.
Craig Esherick, the former Georgetown men’s basketball coach and associate director of Mason’s Center for Sport Management, recalled a student who blossomed during an internship with a health and fitness company.
“She had a forward-facing position and really got involved with client relations,” Esherick said. “Those types of experiences, they help you with dealing with 50, 60, 70 players. She’s used to talking to different types of people and making arguments that support a company.”
“One of the biggest complaints people have about their college careers is they don’t feel prepared,” Brownson said. “It was the opposite for me. My role as a coach has extensive administrative responsibilities and understanding policy and society and what is happening in sport culture. All those things were in the classes I took.”
Still, if Brownson, of Alexandria, Virginia, didn’t know football, she would not have received the opportunity.
As a Mason student, Brownson helped coach at Mount Vernon High School and starred for the DC Divas of the professional Women’s Football Alliance.
She interned with the New York Jets scouting department in 2017. In 2018, Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens invited her to coach other women at the Manning Passing Academy, run by Giants quarterback Eli Manning, his brother, Peyton, and their father, Archie.
Teevens was so impressed with Brownson’s work, he offered her an internship and then hired her.
“She was very smart, sharp in her awareness of football, and I was impressed how she worked with young people,” Teevens said.
The final endorsement came from Dartmouth’s players, who Teevens said backed Brownson’s hiring.
“This is a very forward-thinking school,” Brownson said. “I would love to stay and grow at this level as much as possible.”
Brownson works with Dartmouth’s receivers and special teams. She breaks down video of opponent coverage schemes, helps plan practices and has substitution responsibilities during games.
Interestingly, Mason sophomore Kate Dunn became the first woman to coach in a college football game (a distinction recognized by the College Football Hall of Fame) when she served as an offensive coordinator in the 2015 USA College Football Bowl game, which featured the nation’s top Division III players.
For Brownson, that was another step in the right direction.
“I don’t want to be the first female Division I coach,” Brownson said. “I want to be the first of many.”