NORTH CANTON — Callie Brownson alternated between running and backpedaling, spotting the ball and shouting instructions along the way.
While Brownson’s assistants worked from the sideline during 11-on-11 drills Friday evening at Walsh University, she was front and center on the practice field, realizing a dream as the head coach of the 2022 U.S. Women’s Tackle National Team and navigating players through the final period of a grueling two-a-day marathon.
Sweat dripped on a habanero-hot day, but Brownson seemingly never stopped moving.
“I don’t need caffeine during the day,” Brownson told the Beacon Journal afterward. “This opportunity is kind of fueling the whole thing.”
Cleveland Browns training camp begins with Callie Brownson taking advantage of golden opportunity elsewhere
Brownson has played an important role for Browns coach Kevin Stefanski the past two seasons, helping plan and organize the franchise’s day-to-day operations as his chief of staff. She also has aided the on-field guidance of several position groups, adding the title of assistants wide receivers coach in February.
Veteran players rehabilitating from injuries, quarterbacks and rookies reported to Browns training camp on Friday. They began on-field work Saturday in Berea. The rest of the players are scheduled to report Tuesday, and the first full-squad practice of camp will be held Wednesday.
Callie Brownson’s journey:Cleveland Browns assistant reinvents herself, crawls out of ‘really dark spot’ after DUI arrest
Coaching Team USA was a goal:Vow Browns assistant Callie Brownson made to dad in 2017 becomes reality
Deshaun Watson trade:Women in Browns organization had input on deal for quarterback accused of sexual misconduct, Callie Brownson says
Meanwhile, Brownson began running her first full-scale practices as a head coach Friday in North Canton after Stefanski gave her his blessing late last year to lead the national team.
“A lot of work hard work has gone into it since trials in March both on the coaching end and the player end,” Brownson said, “so to be able to bring it all together and finally be in the same place is incredible.
“It’s awesome to be in this position [as a head coach], but I think it’s even more awesome to be in this position with this group in particular, one that means a lot to me because of my time as a player with it. It’s a great feeling.”
Cleveland Browns roster moves:Josh Rosen signed to supplement quarterback depth as franchise awaits Deshaun Watson decision
Browns takeaways:Trade to Carolina Panthers was best thing for Baker Mayfield, Cleveland
The national team will break training camp Wednesday and fly to Vantaa, Finland, where it will compete in the International Federation of American Football Women’s Tackle World Championship, which run from Thursday through Aug. 8. The U.S. will begin its play in the eight-team tournament Saturday when it faces Germany.
Brownson played wide receiver and safety for the Americans when they won gold medals in 2013 and 2017. They also captured gold in 2010 during the first IFAF Women’s Tackle World Championship.
Callie Brownson has high expectations for U.S. Women’s Tackle National Team
USA’s status as the winner of the three previous world championships led Brownson to adopt the mantra “gold standard” for this year’s team.
“When I first got the job, I had to think of something that separated this national team from all the other ones,” Brownson, 32, said. “For me, it was there’s been three other national teams before them who have all won gold, so the standard is gold.
“It’s more than just, ‘Hey, we get off the plane, and we step on the podium.’ For us, it’s in every little facet of what we do. Every single rep, the classroom reps that we get, how we fuel our bodies, how we sleep, how we recover is at a gold standard. It’s the standard at which a person who deserves a gold medal acts, and all of the little facets will ultimately lead to the bigger facet.”
There is no time to waste. The national team’s training camp spans roughly one week before tournament play begins. In other words, Brownson doesn’t have a month of training camp practices like NFL coaches do to lay a foundation.
“It’s a tricky science, but ultimately the best thing about the game of football is it does show the identity,” Brownson said. “It shows who you are, and we’ve put a lot of imagery in front of them and here’s our mantra, here’s what we are.
“We have a lot of leaders on a group like this when you’re taking about a national team who kind of take that stuff and run with it. A lot of it is being very strategic in messaging and then trusting they’re going to bring it to the field and then holding them accountable to it on the field.”
Brownson said she already knows her team is “gritty” but is eager to see how the group evolves in the short time before it boards its flight this week at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Another Cleveland Browns coach with a new opportunity:‘It’s a blank slate’: Drew Petzing adjusts to new QB room
Cleveland Browns training camp:Quarterback practice reps headline five storylines entering
Newcomers at Cleveland Browns training camp:Amari Cooper, Cade York highlight five new faces to watch
Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski says Callie Brownson and USA Football have his full support
In the meantime, Brownson has remained plugged in with the Browns to some degree, but she emphasized her faith in Chavis Cook’s ability to excel in a chief-of-staff role amid her absence. Cook — dubbed “the perfect guy for the job” by Brownson — is a coordinator of team logistics.
“I’m still juggling a little bit [with the Browns], but I’ve got to be honest, the crew that is stepping in for me while I’m gone has been incredible,” Brownson said. “They’ve been awesome. I get a text here and there with just an outlier question, and obviously I’m willing to help them.
“I wasn’t trying to throw them into a bad situation with me leaving, so anything I can do to help when I have the time to, I will. But that’s an incredible crew over there, and I have all the confidence in the world that everything will run as it should.”
2022 NFL Draft pick won’t participate right away for Cleveland Browns:Rookie David Bell to start training camp on PUP list with foot injury
More on David Bell:‘I’m real hard on myself’: Cleveland Browns rookie receiver seeking perfection
Players on Cleveland Browns offense worth monitoring:Jacoby Brissett, Jedrick Wills highlight five offensive players in focus at training camp
Cleveland Browns defenders to watch:Jadeveon Clowney, Greedy Wiliams highlight five defensive players in focus at training camp
Stefanski didn’t want Brownson to miss a chance to lead the national team, which is also scheduled to participate in a football clinic for girls ages 8-14 from 1-3 p.m., Tuesday, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Sports Complex.
“In addition to the honor that comes with representing the United States, this is an exciting professional development opportunity, which I encourage for everyone on our coaching staff,” Stefanski said in December, when the selection of Brownson as head coach was announced. “Callie and USA Football have our full support.”
Now it’s time for the U.S. to live up to the “gold standard” championed by its coach.
“The energy has been through the roof,” Brownson said.
And she has no interest in resting until the standard is met.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.
On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich.