The Berry College football program will enter their sixth season of play this year when the Vikings open play Sept. 1 at Valhalla Stadium against Maryville.
For six years, Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski has progressively led his team to higher levels of success. This past season, the Vikings completed the regular season with a perfect record for the first time, won the Southern Athletic Association title for the second time, and advanced to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time, advancing to the second round.
The success of the team has helped solidify its place in the community, but outreach from the coach and his players has also helped the Vikings become recognizable faces around Rome and Floyd County.
One way Coach K helps the community is the Berry Youth Football Camp. The camp took place over four days this week at Valhalla Stadium, concluding its fifth year as it was started just after the Vikings completed their first season of play.
“Our overall goal with the camp is to make sure these kids have fun playing football,” Kunczewski said. “I’m certainly biased, but the game of football has given me so much. It’s given the town of Rome so much, and Floyd County so much throughout the years. We want to promote the game of football.”
For Coach K, helping out in the Rome and Floyd County area is synonymous with making sure youths have exposure to football. He feels the sport offers values that are important in the development of young ones.
“I don’t know if numbers are declining locally, but numbers are certainly declining nationally,” he said. “I think it’s our job as coaches, whether it be at the NFL level, whether it be at the college level, whether it be at the high school lever, whether it be at the youth level, our job as coaches is to promote the sport. It teaches you so much about life, about teamwork, about discipline, about being tough, and about playing with others from many different backgrounds.”
Coach K’s players have also done volunteer work with West Central, Anna K. Davie, The Salvation Army and Elm Street just to highlight a few.
“Our players have done a tremendous job of getting involved in many different avenues throughout the community,” Kunczewski said. “We hope we’ve had a small effect on the community.”
The work in the community hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“What the community has given us is tremendous support,” Kunczewski said. “For example we led the country in attendance in first-round playoffs games, and led the conference in home attendance for the last years. Yes there’s a lot of Berry alums, but a lot of people in the community have come and supported us on game days, and that means a lot to our guys. It doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s the Berry community, but it’s also the Rome community.”