Joe Berger Gives Back to Community
By Alexis Mercer
More than 300 kids ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade excitedly lined up at Newaygo High School’s practice football field on the morning of Wednesday, June 28th, ready to meet Joe Berger and participate in a football camp.
Joe Berger, a 2000 graduate of Newaygo High School, is about to start his 13th season in the NFL. He was drafted in 2005 by the Carolina Panthers, and played with the Dolphins, Cowboys after that. Since 2011 he has been with the Minnesota Vikings, playing multiple positions on the offensive line. According to NFL.com, Berger has started 68 games and played in 129.
For this, the 3rd year of the camp, Berger brought teammate and friend Jeremiah Sirles along with him. Sirles was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014 and ended that season as a starter for the San Diego Chargers. He was then traded to the Vikings in 2015, where he now plays as an guard and tackle on the offensive line.
It wasn’t difficult to pick out the two NFL players in a sea of people on the field. Berger, at 6’5”, and Sirles, at 6’6”, circled the field encouraging the athletes and jumping in to a few of the drills.
The camp, inspired by football, but more to encourage kids of all ages to be athletically active, was a giant success. More than 300 kids running, jumping, throwing, kicking and enjoying themselves was a true sight.
Kids were grouped by ages and spent the morning rotating through drills. An hour and a half in to the day, Sirles stood in front of all camp participants and talked about his journey in the NFL as well as what the things he finds to be most important about being an athlete: doing well in school first and respecting yourself and those around you. “Respect will get you a long way,” he said to 300 attentive sets of ears.
Student-athletes enjoyed a free lunch and got back out to the field for an afternoon of more fun.
The day ended with Joe Berger handing out prizes, which all students who attended were eligible to receive. Four tickets to the Vikings/Lions game on Thanksgiving Day, footballs, gloves he wore in NFL games, a 24” television, bags, water bottles and more were all given away and Berger signed anything the students requested. Then Berger sat patiently for more than an hour signing pictures, t-shirts and taking pictures with the students.
Joe Berger and Jeremiah Sirles are two of the best role models in the business. College graduates, family men, leaders on and off the field.
While this may be Berger's last season in the NFL, as he has said it may be time to move on to other endeavors, these 300 fans will be cheering the loudest from Newaygo County.