April 16, 2012

Berry hires first coach

More news about: Berry | LaGrange
Tony Kunczewski was around to help build LaGrange's football program from scratch and now will do so for himself.
Berry athletics photo

Tony Kunczewski, who helped LaGrange build its football program from scratch and reach the NCAA Division III playoffs in just its third season, has been named the first head football coach in Berry College history, Berry’s director of athletics, Todd Brooks, announced Monday.

Berry takes the field in 2013 and will compete as a member of the Southern Athletic Association. If both Hendrix and Berry field teams in 2013, that will give the conference six football members, still short of an automatic bid until 2017, two years after UAA members Wash U. and Chicago join the league as affiliates.

“I’m very excited about Tony Kunczewski joining Berry’s department of athletics as the first football coach in our program’s history,” Brooks said. “It was imperative to our search committee that we find a coach and a person who is the right fit for Berry College, and I think coach Kunczewski is just that.  I am confident that he will do an excellent job in starting the football program at Berry College and leading it into the future.”

Kunczewski (kun-CHESS-key) said Berry’s academic culture and history of athletic success made this an attractive position.

“Berry College is a tremendous college with a long-standing tradition of excellence,” Kunczewski said.  “Once I stepped on campus, it surely did not disappoint. Berry is one of the most beautiful and impressive campuses in the world.  It’s truly a unique place that combines excellent academics with a strong history of success in athletics.

“The people from the administration on down were so impressive in their desire to promote well-rounded student-athletes in their athletics programs,” Kunczewski said. “It was easy to detect that there is something special about the Berry culture. What a great opportunity, and one that I truly feel blessed and humbled to have.  Everything is in place to attract top student-athletes.

“We are going to make the Berry College and the Rome and Floyd County communities proud of their football program both on and off the field.  I can’t wait to get started.”

Berry president Stephen R. Briggs said Kunczewski’s enthusiasm for building a winning program while teaching beyond the game of football make him an ideal fit for Berry.

"Coach Kunczewski impressed us with his passion for the distinctive mission and values of Berry,” Briggs said. “He understands how to build a football program that both wins on the field and contributes to the greater good of the campus. He coaches for life as well as for Saturday afternoon."

Kunczewski has been the defensive coordinator and head strength and conditioning coach at LaGrange since July 2005, helping develop all aspects of the start-up program from its inception.  The program began intercollegiate competition in 2006, and in 2008 finished with a 9-2 overall record, recorded the largest single-season improvement in NCAA Division III football history.

That season, Kunczewski’s defense ranked 18th nationally in total defense, fifth in pass defense, 15th in sacks and sixth in tackles for loss, leading the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in total defense, pass defense and sacks.

Last season, LaGrange was ranked 44th nationally in total defense.

In six seasons with the Panthers, Kunczewski has coached nine All-Conference defensive selections, including the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and had four players selected to play in the Tazon de Estrellas All-Star game in Mexico.

Away from the field, Kunczewski supervised the efforts of LaGrange’s players to be involved in the Communities in Schools program, sending student-athletes into local elementary schools to help students with reading skills.

“I am so excited for Tony and his family,” LaGrange coach Todd Mooney said. “When we started our football program here at LaGrange, I hired Tony with the expectation and belief that he would do an excellent job for us and position himself to achieve his goal of becoming a head coach.  He exceeded my expectations in every way over the past seven years.

“Tony is an outstanding football coach, recruiter, and role model.  While disappointed to lose him, I am extremely grateful for his efforts here and proud that he has achieved his goal.  Tony will do an excellent job for Berry College.”

Prior to joining LaGrange, Kunczewski served as an assistant coach at Bowdoin and Allegheny.  He was at Bowdoin during the 2004-05 academic year, coaching both safeties and corners in a multiple-scheme defense.  Kunczewski served at Allegheny from 2001-04, coaching outside linebackers his first season and inside linebackers the next two years. He was also the co-special teams coordinator and the strength and conditioning coach at Bowdoin, while heading up recruiting in the talent-rich areas of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan.

Kunczewski began his collegiate coaching career as the outside linebacker coach at Allegheny during the 2001-02 academic year. That season, Allegheny’s defense ranked 10th nationally against the run.

As a student-athlete, Kunczewski was a two-time first team All-Conference player at Grove City. A four-year letter winner, Kunczewski earned All-Presidents Athletic Conference honors as a strong safety as a junior in 1998, and as an outside linebacker the following year, when he led the team with 101 tackles. He earned honorable mention All-PAC honors as a cornerback in 1997.

Grove City won a pair of PAC championships during Kunczewski’s playing career.

The Harrison City, Pa., native earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Grove City in 2000, and a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion from California (Pa.)  in 2004.

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