On a gloomy day in Hanover, Dartmouth football players run through plays in practice with energy and enthusiasm.
But the most energetic and enthusiastic person on the field is not a player, it’s “Coach Callie.”
She darts around the field, hollering, encouraging and critiquing. She processes every route and snap and, within seconds, sprints over to a player, gives her take on the execution and sends him on his way.
Callie Brownson is the offensive quality control coach for Dartmouth football. She’s the first full-time female football coach at the Division I level.
Brownson grew up with football. Her father was an athlete, and she gravitated toward football at a young age. Callie played youth football with the boys, and she felt welcomed, but that changed as she got older.
“I tried (to play) again in high school as a freshman and was pretty much told no, that there wasn’t a place for women in the program,” Brownson said. “The door was kind of shut in my face when I wanted to do it, which was a hard thing to go through, and I thought football on the playing side of it and being active in it was over at that point.”
However, not all hope was lost. Callie found that there were other ways for women to play football.
“When I went to college, I heard about the women’s league and for me, I looked them up immediately on YouTube and saw it and was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, women are playing football and this is another chance for me.'”
Callie went on to join the Women’s Football Alliance and have a successful career as a free safety and wide receiver. She served as a five-time team captain and won two national titles with the D.C. Divas.
She then used her passion and experience to break into the coaching world. Dartmouth football head coach Buddy Teevens first noticed Callie at the Manning Passing Academy. He was impressed with her right away, and offered her an internship with the Big Green for preseason.
Callie continued to impress Teevens and the entire staff, so Teevens offered her a full-time coaching position with the team for the 2018 season.
“She just said flat out, ‘Coach, I want to coach. That’s what I want to do,’ and she proved it by her preparation and then her performance, and she is,” Teevens said. “I hired a great coach, who happens to be a woman.”
Teevens also added that multiple players approached him, unsolicited, and asked him to consider hiring Callie full-time.
One of those players, Drew Hunnicutt, echoed Teevens’ sentiments on Brownson.
“I had not thought once, ‘Hey, there’s a woman on our sideline.’ No, we have another coach on our sideline who is helping us get to where we want to be,” Hunnicutt said.
Callie has made a home for herself at Dartmouth, but she knows the path for women in the world of football is still a tumultuous one.
“The biggest challenge is being able to show your competitiveness and your knowledge. It’s hard for women to be able to say, ‘I do work hard, and I do know my stuff, and I do belong here,’ so I think that’s the biggest challenge, just entering the football world.”