'I want to coach': Team USA vow Browns' Callie Brownson made to dad in 2017 becomes reality

Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal

When Callie Brownson’s father picked her up at the airport in 2017 after she’d won her second gold medal in the International Federation of American Football’s women’s tackle world championships, she knew her playing days would soon be over.

Now the Browns chief of staff, Brownson voiced her next goal with USA Football as they drove away.

"I told him, ‘I don’t know how, but I’m nearing the end of my career, and the next time that I’m with Team USA I want to coach.’ I didn’t know what capacity that was going to be, but I knew that I wanted to make that a reality,” Brownson said.

Chief of Staff Callie Brownson before a preseason NFL football game between the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns on August 22, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 17-13. (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)

That vision was realized Thursday when USA Football announced that Brownson has been named head coach of the U.S. women’s national tackle team for the 2022 IFAF World Championships in Vantaa, Finland, from July 27-Aug. 8. Trials begin in March, with Browns coach Kevin Stefanski approving Brownson’s leave of absence from training camp.

Brownson will lead a team of 45 players and seven assistants as Team USA tries to retain the gold medal it earned with Brownson playing receiver and safety in the 2013 and ’17 world championships.

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Asked if she will have a mantra similar to Stefanski’s “smart, tough, accountable” theme for the Browns, Brownson said, “Somebody asked me this yesterday and I said, ‘Every head coach needs an acronym,’ so I have to come up with one here pretty soon.”

As for which Browns player is most like her, Brownson picked safety John Johnson III.

“I like to fly around, I got really excited, played with a lot of energy. When I watch him play I do get a little bit of a smirk sometimes and say I see a little bit of a younger Callie,” she said.

Brownson, 32, will draw from the detailed notebooks she kept in her two previous trips to the world championships, including the 2013 competition in Finland, which has only three hours of darkness in the summer.

“[They have] things that I loved about it and I was like, ‘It would be really cool if we attacked it from this angle,’” she said of the notebooks. “One page has what we installed that day and the next page has my thoughts of the day. You can kind of see in the 2013 one when I was dealing with the jet lag when we first got to Finland, my end-of-the-day notes were a little shorter than they were when we were in training camp in Chicago.

“It’s all embedded. I have all the schematic things that we were doing as well as my thoughts on what was happening and things that were impactful that I went through. They’re cool little books to go through.”

Brownson wants her team to have the same life-changing experience she had and build connections with players from around the world. But she’s also got her eye on a gold medal, even as she admits that Team USA’s gap is shrinking.

FILE - Cleveland Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. Brownson will coach the U.S. Women's Tackle National Team this summer in Finland. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

“There’s no better feeling in the world than playing your tail off and then somebody putting a gold medal around your neck,” she said. “That’s one that still sits with me today.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com.