Spending The Day With The First Woman To Coach Division I College Football Full-Time
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This season, Dartmouth College became the first Division I school to hire a woman as a full-time football coach. Esteban Bustillos from member station WGBH spent a day with Callie Brownson and the Big Green and brought us the story.
ESTEBAN BUSTILLOS, BYLINE: Some of Callie Brownson's earliest memories are Saturday afternoons with her dad, watching the University of Miami Hurricanes play football. Those players were her childhood heroes. She even collected their football cards.
CALLIE BROWNSON: I was intertwined. I loved it instantly.
BUSTILLOS: She played youth football. But in the fall of 2004, when she tried to join her high school team in Northern Virginia, she was told no. They wouldn't even let her try out but said maybe she could come on as a kicker.
BROWNSON: Nothing against kickers, but I wanted to play. I wanted to hit people. I wanted to be a part of every facet of it.
BUSTILLOS: Before her senior year, Brownson tried one last time to convince the football coach to give her a shot.
BROWNSON: I said, listen. I'm going into senior year. And I'm trying out this year. I don't care if you ever put me on the field. I'm going to be on a football team. And he just kind of laughed at me.
BUSTILLOS: Even though she never got to play in high school, Brownson didn't give up. She played free safety, wide receiver and running back for the D.C. Divas of the Women's Football Alliance from 2010 to 2017 and won two world championships with Team USA women's football. Brownson also spent three seasons coaching high school football and interned last year with the New York Jets. This summer, she took a coaching gig at the Manning Passing Academy, a prestigious football clinic. This was the first year the academy admitted female players. Buddy Teevens, who oversees coaches at the Academy, wanted to recruit women to work with those players. He hired Brownson. And she stood out immediately.
BUDDY TEEVENS: Of the people on the field, Kelly had really struck me as highly, highly organized, passionate about what she was doing. She was very, very meticulous in terms of the practice plan I had asked her. And she was very confident
BUSTILLOS: Teevens is also the head coach at Dartmouth College. He invited Brownson to intern with the Big Green during the preseason. And after seeing how well she clicked with everyone, he made a special announcement that the team captured on video.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TEEVENS: I've been very, very impressed - so impressed with her that I liked to offer a position with us this year.
BUSTILLOS: He hired her as the offensive quality control coach. It's an entry-level job. But she's the first woman to do it at this level. And Teevens says she's proven she deserved the spot.
TEEVENS: She's made - played more football than a lot of people that are coaching in the NFL or at the college level. And to me, that's relevant. She understands the sport.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)
BROWNSON: Good job. Good job. Good job. Good job.
BUSTILLOS: On the field at Dartmouth, Brownson is everywhere at once. Whether it's helping special teams, taking part in drills with the wide receivers, or doing the scouting defense set up, she's always on the move.
BROWNSON: The wing. All right. The seesaws on the wing, OK?
BUSTILLOS: Like a true player's coach, she cracks jokes with the team, cheering when they do well and correcting them when they need it. Junior wide receiver Brandon Hester says players knew right away they wanted her to stick around and encouraged Coach Teevens to make the hire.
BRANDON HESTER: Immediately, we knew, like, we couldn't really see ourselves without her. I'd practice every single day just because of the energy and passion that she brought to the game.
BUSTILLOS: Brownson loves football. And she wants more girls and women to be accepted in the game like she finally has been. And while she's proud to be the first woman who has a full-time division one football coach, her bigger focus is on not being the last.
BROWNSON: All this time, we've thought that women didn't have a place in football. Well, they do. For me - that, to me, is the headline that's more important than oh, the first female. Like, OK. That's cool. But is it worth it? Is it actually going to evoke change? Then that's the part that, to me, is the one that should be focused on.
BUSTILLOS: But for right now, she's going to do everything she can to help Dartmouth win an Ivy League title. For NPR News, I'm Esteban Bustillos in Hanover, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.