CLEVELAND — Callie Brownson will exchange her brown and orange gear this summer for some red, white and blue — and chase another gold medal.
The Cleveland Browns‘ chief of staff, and one of a handful of female assistant coaches in the NFL, will coach the U.S. women’s tackle national team this summer at the world championships in Finland.
It’s a dream job for Brownson, 32, who won two gold medals while playing on the U.S. team.
“It means a lot to me,” she said Thursday on a Zoom call. “The moments that I had being a player for this national team are so special to me. You can’t say enough about playing the sport that you love while playing internationally and representing your country.”
Her selection by USA football follows her arrest in May for operating a vehicle under the influence. She said she is grateful for the support she received from the Browns and others during a difficult time.
“I was definitely scared in the moment that everything that I had worked for was gone,” Brownson told the Akron Beacon-Journal on Wednesday. “But that’s I guess a testament to how much I love this and how much this means to me. It was the thing that I was most scared of losing.
“I made a really, really horrible, dangerous, irresponsible decision that night, and I accept the consequences that come with that. Nobody was more disappointed in my actions that night than myself.”
Brownson is in her second season with the Browns. Coach Kevin Stefanski hired her shortly after he got the job in Cleveland, and he credited her with helping him navigate through a tricky first season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brownson, who will miss a portion of training camp to coach the U.S. team, laughed when asked if she was confident Stefanski could function without her.
“We all learned in 2020 that we have to have contingency plans, and this is a positive reason to have a contingency plan,” she said.
The U.S. team will compete at the International Federation of American Football world championship in Vantaa, Finland, from July 27-Aug. 8. The team will have 45 players and seven assistants, and Brownson said it’s “a priority” to hire women for some of those jobs.
The Americans will compete against seven other teams, all trying to dethrone them as champions.
“The world is coming for the U.S. team,” said Brownson, adding that international teams have closed the gap in the past five years on the U.S. “We’ve won three gold medals and we want a fourth. So do they.”
After playing in the Women’s Football Alliance, Brownson began her coaching career at her high school in Alexandria, Virginia. She worked as a scouting intern with the New York Jets before moving on to Dartmouth.
She later spent one season as a coaching intern with the Buffalo Bills before being hand-picked by Stefanski, who started out as an administrative assistant in Minnesota.
“USA Football has made a tremendous selection in Callie,” Stefanski said.
Brownson’s responsibilities with the Browns have expanded beyond planning. Last season, she became the first female positional coach in a game when she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing, who didn’t make the trip to Jacksonville after his wife, Louisa, gave birth to the couple’s first child.
Brownson has also helped with Cleveland’s running backs, and she’s omnipresent on the field during practice while yelling out drill changes.
“I’ve become a significantly better coach and a significantly better person since my time here as a Cleveland Brown,” she said. “I’m grateful for how much they’ve taught me, how much they’ve believed in me and how much I’ve grown since I’ve been here as a coach.”