It's pitch dark outside, but Berry College Head Coach Tony Kunczewski is off to locate high school student-athletes for the Viking football team.
In addition to Coach K, four other BC coaches are on the road throughout the Southeast. As they prepare for the football program's second year, the staff is looking for the talented athletes--but also the type of young man who will succeed at Berry College.
"There may be six or so graduating seniors at a school looking to play college football," said Kunczewski. "But it's usually about one or two at each place who might be the right fit for us."
The Recruiting Season
From mid-November to late December, college football coaching staffs hit the road in this annual rite of passage. Early mornings, rental cars and fast food receipts are standard operating procedures.
Whether the program is NCAA Division I, NAIA or NCAA Division III like Berry, this is a vitally important part for future success.
"If you work hard and do the right things in December, your next season is going to be better," Kunczewski said.
Today Coach K is in Northern Georgia. Other staff members are in Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina and Alabama on this chilly December day.
"In most cases, we like to get an early start. If we start early, we can get back to Rome in the early evening. Whenever possible, I want our staff to be able to be at home at night."
The Right Fits
Recruiting is an ongoing process. By following the high school football season—an arduous task since there are many other duties during the Vikings' playing season—and building and maintaining relationships with prep coaches, the staff has laid the groundwork.
"The life blood of college recruiting is building good relationships with high school coaches," said Kunczewski. "Almost all of these men want the best for their kids. It helps their program to send players on to college and the coaches have an investment in their student-athletes and want the best for them."
Coach K and his staff will develop a list of potential recruits at each school. Due to Berry's rigorous admission standards, the pool can be limited.
"In most cases, we are seeking tremendous students who happened to be outstanding high school football players," he said. "We work the coaches to identify the best fits for Berry and our football program."
The High School Visit
Armed with a fresh transcript and video highlights for review, college coaches then prepare for an informal interview.
Each member of the Berry football coaching staff carries an IPad, which allows for a slideshow presentation about Berry College, and to be able to take notes and document information about each prospect.
Kunczewski is at ease in speaking to recruits, just like he is at a Rotary meeting or an on-campus event. Since he's done his homework, he's not exaggerating by telling a young man: "We like you and think you would be a great addition to our program and we'd like for you to visit Berry."
Berry College Visit
The coaches sing the praises of Berry College. It's the world's largest college campus, recently was named the top "up and coming liberal arts college" in the nation, deer out-number students two-to-one, impressive athletic facilities, nationally-recognized student work program, are a few of the key points.
"Our campus sells itself," Kunczewski said. "Getting a prospective student-athlete to one of our recruit days is important. Ideally, we have 12 or so prospects for each date. That gives the kid and his family an opportunity to ask questions and to meet other families and prospective student-athletes."
After the Berry College visit, the young men are in an opportunity to answer the big question: Do you see yourself being happy here the next four years?
Our visit took us through to five counties (Dawson, Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon and Whitfield), covered 273 miles and we met with 11 high school seniors.
In most cases, other football coaches from competing programs cross paths, but we were the only visitors to each school on this day.
"Today was a very good day," Kunczewski said. "We got to visit with every prospect and the coaches provided great insight."