He is the only Division III football coach that Worcester State has ever known.
Since the Lancers first became a Division III program in 1985, Brien Cullen has manned the helm of their football team. With every passing year at Worcester State, his legacy grows.
Cullen got his start at Worcester State as an undergrad studying elementary education and as a member of the football team. His original plan was to attend a junior college, but at the advice of his high school hockey coach, he applied to Worcester State instead.
While the football team was club, Cullen made his presence known as a four-year starter. He was an -offensive linemen his freshman and sophomore year then moved to defensive line his junior and senior year. He found success on defense as a two-time All-New England honoree then as a senior, he was named team MVP and team captain.
Although he loved football, Cullen originally had other plans following graduation.
“My father was a superintendent and I have a lot of educators in my family,” Cullen said. “Plus I was close with my high school coach who was a teacher so I thought I would like to follow that path.”
While coaching football at Milford High School, his former coach, Jim Gerard, retired from Worcester State which provided the opening he needed to take the position. He applied for it and was named the new head coach in 1983.
Cullen served as a part-time coach for the Lancers while continuing to teach physical education at Milford full time. During the two seasons prior to the Lancers elevating to varsity, the team went 19-3, including the 1984 season where they went 11-0 and won the 1984 National Club Championship.
“The football transition from club to varsity was the easy part of it,” Cullen said. “We were a good team the two years before the move, making it to the National Championship twice. Our first year in Division III, we went undefeated beating UMass Lowell on homecoming. It was a positive way to start the Division III process.”
Since taking over the Lancers football program 37 years ago, Cullen has received many accolades, including New England Football Conference (NEFC) Coach of the Year in the 1987, 1993, 1995, 2000 and 2011 seasons. In 1996, The American Football Coaches Magazine named him the Division III National Defensive Coordinator of the Year and the National Football Foundation honored him as a contributor to football in 1997.
In 2004, Coach Cullen was honored by the ECAC football officials with the Murray Lewis Award honoring his contributions to football in the region. Most recently, Coach Cullen was distinguished with the John Baronian Award for lifetime achievement by the Greater Boston Gridiron Club.
Despite all his awards, seeing his former players succeed is one of his favorite memories and accomplishments.
“The memories I have that are even better than the games we’ve won are the players who have gone on to coach in high school or college,” Cullen said. “It is great to see them go on to coach and do their best to promote the program also. The awards show the great student-athletes and coaches I’ve had to help establish the program here in New England.”
When he isn’t on the gridiron, Cullen can be found teaching Health and Physical Education for the Classroom Teacher in the fall and Principals of Coaching in the spring for Worcester State. He loves to golf, but most of his free time is spent with his wife Mary, his two children: Casey '06 and Kelly and three grandsons: Declan, Rowan and James and one granddaughter Claire.
As he looks back on his time as a student-athlete, teacher and coach, Cullen wants his and all student-athletes to make sure they are getting everything out of their Worcester State experience.
“The student-athletes should enjoy their college experience while they can,” Cullen said. “It is gone before they know it. I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of players we recruit coming in then meeting their future spouses here. It is a lifelong journey as a Worcester State alum. It is satisfying to see how much they come out for homecoming or alumni golf events and the how the bond gets stronger as they get older.”