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CLEVELAND – Callie Brownson will swap her brown and orange gear this summer for something 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 national team this summer at the World Cup 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 I had as a player for this national team are so special to me. You can not say enough about playing the sport you love while playing internationally and representing your country.”
Her choice of American football follows her arrest in May for driving 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 at the moment that everything I had been working for was gone,” Brownson told the Akron Beacon-Journal on Wednesday. “But it’s probably proof of how much I love this and how much it means to me. That’s what I was most afraid of losing.
“I made a really, really horrible, dangerous, irresponsible decision that night, and I accept the consequences that come with it. No one was more disappointed with my actions that night than myself.”
Brownson is in his second season with the Browns. Coach Kevin Stefanski hired her shortly after he got the job at Cleveland, and he credited her for helping him navigate through a difficult first season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brownson, who will miss part of the training camp to coach the American team, laughed when asked if she was sure Stefanski could function without her.
“We all learned in 2020 that we need to have contingency plans, and that is a positive reason to have a contingency plan,” she said.
The American team will compete at the World Cup of the International Federation of American Football in Vantaa, Finland, from July 27 to August. The team will have 45 players and seven assistants, and Brownson said it is “a priority” to hire women for some of these jobs.
The Americans will compete against seven other teams, all trying to oust them as champions.
“The world is coming for the American team,” Brownson said, adding that international teams have closed the gap for the past five years in the United States. “We have won three gold medals and we want a fourth. They do too.”
After playing in the Women’s Football Alliance, Brownson began his coaching career at his high school in Alexandria, Virginia. She worked as a scout intern for the New York Jets before moving on to Dartmouth.
She later spent a season as a trainee coach at the Buffalo Bills before being hand-picked by Stefanski, who started as an administrative assistant in Minnesota.
“USA Football has made a great choice in Callie,” Stefanski said.
Brownson’s responsibilities with the Browns have expanded beyond planning. Last season, she became the first female position coach in a game when she filled in for tight-ends coach Drew Petzing, who did not 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 is ubiquitous on the field during practice while shouting out for drill changes.
“I’ve become a significantly better coach and a significantly better person since my time here as 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’d been here as a coach.