Joe Berger Camp 2018
By Alexis Mercer
On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, 280 young athletes gathered at Newaygo High School’s football field to partake in a day of activity for the 5th Annual Joe Berger Camp.
The grey t-shirts each camp participant wore was profoundly sentimental, stating “Welcome Home” on the front. On the back each team Berger played for throughout his accomplished career was listed, and at the end “Home 2018 Always a Lion.”
Berger, by far the tallest man on the field, spoke to the excited athletes and their parents at the beginning of the morning, telling them he was looking forward to the day to be active and enjoy the opportunity to run and play.
The camp was once again free for all participants, including the t-shirt, lunch, and prizes at the end of the day.
Athletes were organized into groups based mostly on age, and proceeded to spend the day circling through stations that included not only football related drills, but also stations just meant to get kids active and moving!
One of the highlights for the younger set of kids was getting to play Duck-Duck-Goose with Berger. He laughed as he was trying to get back into the circle without smushing the kindergarten age kids lunging at him!
While the media had ample opportunities to talk to Berger throughout the day, including several television news stations, the questions the kids asked near the end of the day seemed most appropriate for recording, since he was so graciously giving his time to them for the day.
Q: “Can you bring more NFL players next year?”
A: I can see if I can do that. I tried, but it’s hard because they all just got done with their training camp. I’ll tell Mr. Sirles you missed him (Berger’s fellow lineman at Minnesota who came to last year’s camp).
Q: “How many touchdowns did you score?”
A: None. I’m a lineman, so it isn’t really something I try to do. But I almost fell on a fumble once. I feel like that counts for something.
Q: “Did you ever play quarterback?”
A: No. I throw the ball terrible. My job is to protect the QB.
Q: “Who was the best on your team?”
A: Last year? We had so many great players. Offensively I would have to say Case Keenum.
Q: “What about you? Weren’t you the best?”
A: No, I think that would be weird to say you’re the best.
Q: “How many teams did you play for?”
A: Isn’t it on the back of the shirt? (Laughing) I have no idea. 8? [Someone yells out 7] I think Newaygo Rocket Football should count as one, so we will say it’s officially 8.
To end the day, campers all gathered together to listen for who won prizes. The tables were full of camp footballs, a television (the only thing given away that didn’t promote an active lifestyle), yard games, gloves worn by Berger in NFL games, and the grand prize: an authentic Minnesota Vikings Berger jersey.
Berger then sat by the victory bell on the field and patiently signed pictures, shirts, hats, even shoes of the campers and posed for pictures with the kids who were perfectly worn out and happy from a day full of fun.