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Browns announce Israel Woolfork as next recipient of Bill Willis Coaching Fellowship

BEREA, Ohio — The Browns announced Israel Woolfork as the next recipient of the Bill Willis Coaching Fellowship on Wednesday.

Woolfork will work primarily in the quarterbacks room with Browns quarterbacks coach Drew Petzing, helping navigate a position group that features three new players in Deshaun Watson, Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.

“We’ve got three veteran quarterbacks, and I get to be a fly on the wall in that room and soak up as much information as possible,” Woolfork said in a press release. “For me, as a young coach, to be given this opportunity is probably one of the best things that can happen to me and help me develop.”

The fellowship is given to a rising minority coach with a focus on the offensive side of the ball. It is named after Willis, who along with teammate Marion Motley, became two of the first African-American professional football players in the modern era. Willis played with the Browns from 1946-53 and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Woolfork, 31, has some previous experience with the Browns as well. He worked with the coaching staff during the 2021 offseason as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, a separate opportunity each NFL team offers to minority coaches during offseason programs.

He mainly worked with the tight ends and partnered with Petzing, who was the tight ends coach last season and promoted to quarterbacks coach in February.

“This was an opportunity to come back and work for a great organization, and I wanted to jump on that opportunity,” Woolfork said. “This is my dream job — to be in the NFL. This has always been a dream of mine, and to finally have that opportunity now is really awesome.”

In Cleveland, Woolfork will help Browns coaches execute day-to-day activities throughout the year, including building copies of playbooks, preparing and occasionally leading meetings and conducting practice drills.

Woolfork is the second coach to receive the fellowship since the Browns created the position in 2020. Ashton Grant was the first fellow to be selected and was named the Browns’ offensive quality control coach in February after two seasons with the team.

“We created the Bill Willis Fellowship to help address an issue in our league that we all need to do our part to impact,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said in the press release. “(Executive Vice President of Football Ops and GM) Andrew (Berry) and I have tried to be very intentional about adding diverse perspectives to both the coaching and personnel side of our organization. Historically, there has not been enough diversity on the offensive side of the ball and specifically in the quarterback room.

“Israel is a young coach that we got to know last year for a short period of time as a Bill Walsh Fellow. He worked with us virtually in the Spring and then spent a few days with us at training camp and quickly impressed. He’s really an outstanding young coach that did a really good job in his role at Miami. He wants to come in here and learn but he also has a lot of experience that he can bring to the QB room. He’s jumped right in with that group and is making an impact already. We’re excited about having him in our program and having him work with Drew and (Offensive Coordinator) Alex (Van Pelt) with our quarterbacks.”

Fans of the Mid-American Conference may be familiar with Woolfork as he has spent the last eight years coaching at Miami University. He has been the wide receivers coach with the RedHawks since 2018. He was also the running backs coach from 2015-17 and began coaching in the program as a graduate assistant in 2013-14.

The Livonia, Michigan native was also a wide receiver at Grand Valley State from 2008-12.

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