BY KYLE BRENNAN
Tanner Kingsley admits it — he never thought he’d be the offensive coordinator of a college football team at 26 years old.
But that’s exactly the position that the 2014 Woodland High graduate and former college quarterback finds himself in this year as he prepares for his first season leading the offense at Anna Maria College, a small Catholic school outside Worcester, Mass., from which he graduated in 2020.
“I didn’t expect to become an offensive coordinator this quickly,” Kingsley admitted.
Kingsley’s career at Woodland was the stuff of legends —All-State in three sports, 11 varsity letters, five All-NVL honors and two football state records that still stand nearly a decade later — but he experienced some ups and downs in his college career.
When he transferred from Central Connecticut State to Anna Maria in 2019 to play for head coach Dan Mulrooney — a Prospect native and 2007 Holy Cross High graduate — he made the decision partially with his future in mind.
“I transferred to Anna Maria knowing that Coach Mul would hire me as a grad assistant afterwards so I could get into coaching,” said Kingsley, who quarterbacked the Amcats in seven games during the 2019 season, completing 61% of his passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions.
After the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic, Kingsley joined the coaching staff as the quarterbacks coach last season.
“I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting into last year, running a QB room, but I love the kids I work with,” said Kingsley, whose roster of quarterbacks includes Tyler Bulinski, a 2020 Woodland grad. “They work hard and are respectful. As a first-year coach, they bought into what I was saying.”
Working under Mulrooney and offensive coordinator Steve Croce, a 1983 Naugatuck High grad, Kingsley helped the Amcats go 7-3 and win the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championship.
When Mulrooney stepped down from the helm to jump to Division II Lock Haven, the school named Croce as its next football coach. Croce, in turn, chose Kingsley to lead his offense.
“That same day, I knew Coach Croce was going to be getting the job,” Kingsley said. “When the AD [Joe Brady] told us, one of the first things [Croce] told me was that he wanted me to be his offensive coordinator.”
Croce said Kingsley’s appointment wasn’t a tough decision.
“He played in the offense, he knows the offense, and being a quarterback, it’s a natural progression to being an offensive coordinator,” Croce said. “He loves the game. It was a no-brainer. We’re going to work it together, but he’s got the title and the reins.”
A year ago, Anna Maria boasted the eighth-best offense in Division III with its spread offense — something with which Kingsley is very familiar and doesn’t plan on changing.
“I’m definitely accustomed to it from high school and college,” Kingsley said. “We like to take deep shots because we have some great playmakers. We do have a lot of experience coming back on the offensive side of the ball.”
Kingsley knows that he’ll have his hands full this fall. He’s occasionally commuted back and forth during the offseason, but he will relocate to Massachusetts before preseason workouts begin in August.
“I’m going to have a lot more responsibilities being the offensive coordinator, but not much is going to change,” Kingsley said. “The good thing is that we hired some great coaches to come in, so the guys I’m working with are unbelievable.”
The staff includes yet another local connection in Mike Kennedy, a 2010 Naugatuck grad who played at Anna Maria from 2011-14 and enters his third year on staff. Kennedy is the Amcats’ special teams coordinator and defensive line coach.
Already ahead of schedule in his coaching career, Kingsley isn’t looking forward to anything beyond his first year as offensive coordinator.
“I’m focused on controlling what I can control now and preparing for this season,” Kingsley said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN