A Place to Call Home

Note: A longer version of this story was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Berry magazine.

Bernard Granville Jr and Hunter SmithBernard Granville Jr. (left) and Hunter White experienced many firsts as members of Berry’s inaugural football team. If they have their way, there will be at least one more in the near future – the first on-campus home football game.

“I know it sounds selfish, but I think it would be fitting for our class, being the first team, to be going through these growing pains right now, to play on our home field before we graduate,” said White, a freshman animal science major from Hoover, Ala., who plays football and baseball for Berry. “That would be everything.”

Students and alumni have already demonstrated their enthusiasm for the new football program, helping the Vikings to finish second in the Southern Athletic Association in attendance despite hosting all five 2013 home games off campus, either at Rome’s Barron Stadium or nearby Darlington School. The inaugural game drew an overflow crowd of more than 6,700 fans to Barron Stadium, providing the Berry players with a memory to cherish before they had even played a down. 

“I can’t describe that feeling,” said Granville, a graduate of Shaw High School in Columbus, Ga., who dreams of becoming a radiologist. “I’ll love to tell my grandkids about that.”

While they appreciate the many fans who turned out for their 2013 “home” dates, both Granville and White expect a much different atmosphere when the scene shifts to Valhalla.

“I was joking around with the guys that we had 10 away games,” White said, reflecting on the inaugural season. “There’s something different about having your own stadium. I think it’ll really create more of that community feel that Berry’s all about.”

They won’t get any disagreement from head football coach Tony Kunczewski, who sees the stadium as an opportunity to introduce visitors from other schools to the Berry campus.

“Being in the Southern Athletic Association allows our team to travel to some of the premier small private liberal arts colleges in the Southeast and beyond,” he stated. “We’ve seen firsthand the beauty of the other campuses in our league and what the game-day atmosphere is like at those places. Having the on-campus site would be great to showcase Berry to the rest of the SAA and beyond. I can’t even begin to describe how excited we’ll all be to take that Viking Walk from Roy Richards Memorial Gym to Valhalla before kickoff.”

For now, Granville and White are content to make themselves at home as students. Granville, who grew up in a single-parent household, sees Berry as a place that can help “mold me as a man.” White, meanwhile, loves the outdoor setting as well as the small class size.

Between their academic course loads and off-season workouts, neither has a lot of time to daydream, but when they do, thoughts turn to Valhalla and a game-day setting that only Berry can provide.

“I’m getting goose bumps right now thinking about it,” Granville said.