For a year and a half, Becker junior Austin Berning knew what his role on the Bulldogs’ football team was going to be. He was in the middle of his second year starting at strong safety on a defense that…
For a year and a half, Becker junior Austin Berning knew what his role on the Bulldogs’ football team was going to be. He was in the middle of his second year starting at strong safety on a defense that the first half of the season only allowed over 22 points in a game once. Then his role changed, and Berning was also playing offense. Although he had played offense in previous seasons, he had not played any meaningful offensive snaps in two years. Luckily for Becker, Berning had been preparing for the switch – just in case – all year.
The Bulldogs started strong in 2018.
“We had a lot of talent,” Berning said. “We ended up 4-6. I think we could have done better, but we had a lot of injuries and weren’t always connecting. We didn’t always execute as well as we could have.”
Balance was the key in most of Becker’s wins.
“On offense when we could balance the run and the pass, we were most effective,” Berning said. “On defense, when we were all on the same page we played well.”
The second half of the season, the coaches came to Berning with a suggestion.
“At the beginning of the season I started at strong safety,” the 5’11” 185-pound Berning said. “We had a couple of injuries on offense, and we didn’t really have anyone to fill in. I had some experience at running back and slot, so they moved me there; I had to just give it my best. I would play fullback, wing, and wide receiver and just did what the team needed for us to win.”
The junior had a feeling he might be called upon at some point to play offense.
“Even my sophomore year when I wasn’t playing offense – I wanted to play offense – so I studied the playbook and knew the playbook but knew I wasn’t going to get in,” Berning explained. “This past season they asked me if I would have interest in playing fullback. They told me to study the offensive playbook fully – so that is what I did. I would pay attention to offense in practice and ask the coaches about plays to get me ahead of where I would have been.”
While he knew the playbook, Berning – who was voted a team captain for next season – admitted he wasn’t as prepared for the extra work as he would have hoped.
“I thought I had a decent season, but I could have done better,” the junior admitted. “Going both ways puts a lot on you. I don’ think I was ready for it mentally.”
He played well enough on the offensive side of the ball to be a full-time offensive player next year.
“This season I am going to be playing full-time offense,” Berning told northstarfootballnews.com. “We have a couple of young guys coming in the coaches think can take my spot at safety. If we have some injuries or we struggle on defense, as a senior captain, I might be filling in on defense.”
Regardless of where he played, Berning made an impact.
“I give the team energy on offense,” said Berning – who also likes to deer hunt and snowboard. “I have a good field of vision, and I think I have good instincts. On defense, I think I am a leader, and I give everything to make the tackle.”
With his new role next season, Berning isn’t taking any chances with his conditioning.
“This winter I have been working out at a training facility. I am trying to get my speed and agility up. I am also working out in the weight room. This spring I am going to continue working out, but I also will be playing lacrosse. I am a midfielder. It is kind of an offense and defensive position, and I have been starting on varsity there since my freshman year.”
Berning will be focused on cleaning up some offensive football skills this offseason.
“Since I am going to be playing a lot of offense, I want to be able to react to the defense if a play breaks down and I need to work on hitting the hole hard. I like to try to juke a lot.”
This summer – hoping to put on another five to seven pounds – he will continue at the training facility, lifting in the weight room and will be participating in a seven on seven league. He also has some camps lined up.
“I am going to be going to camp at North Dakota State, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, and South Dakota State. I am just trying to get my name out there.”
He also has junior day invites from Minnesota State-Moorhead, Bethel, the University of Puget Sound, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University and Minnesota-Crookston.
With another strong season, Berning won’t have to worry about getting his name out there. College programs will be worrying about getting their name out to him.