Cobbers linebacker Berg makes the team's defense 'tick'
MOORHEAD — Alex Berg broke his ankle during his freshman football season at Concordia, an injury that had Berg contemplating his future.
The setback took a mental toll on the Fargo Shanley graduate who didn't feel like he was part of the team.
"I remember one time I debated if football was for me with this injury," Berg said. "I put on some weight that I didn't need."
Berg bounced back from that adversity and has developed into one of the cornerstones on the Concordia defense. Now a senior, he's in his third year as a starter at inside linebacker for the Cobbers and a two-time, all-conference player.
"He's just a playmaker," Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. "Very athletic, runs really well. He makes our D tick."
Concordia (1-0) plays at perennial NCAA Division III power and No. 12-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater (1-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Perkins Stadium.
"When you think of Whitewater you think of powerhouse," Berg said. "They're a great team, but we want to be in the conversation. We want to be that great team. In order to be that great team, we've got to take down the powerhouses like Whitewater and St. Thomas."
Berg was part of the conversation after Concordia's 25-17 victory against Whitewater last season at Jake Christiansen Stadium. Berg made a stop on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"Definitely a high moment in my career," he said.
One of the lows was the ankle injury that Berg suffered in practice during his first season with the Cobbers a couple weeks into the regular season.
"Once I broke my ankle, practice wasn't the same, meetings weren't the same," he said.
The 6-foot Berg said he gained 25 to 30 pounds while recovering from the injury. He weighed around 225 at his heaviest during his freshman year and he wondered if he would be able to come back the same after the injury. He was cleared to return to activity around the start of that January.
"I looked in the mirror one day and said 'I don't want to be like this' so I changed," said Berg, who is now listed at 210 pounds on the Concordia roster.
Berg said he shed the extra weight by the start of the summer after his freshman year. He then spent summer months training with a group that included his older brother, Josh Berg, a former Cobbers offensive lineman who was then preparing for his senior season.
"I dropped down to about 185 (pounds) and built it back up slowly in the summer," Alex Berg said.
That 2016 summer proved to be a turning point in his career.
"Huge. It set the foundation," he said. "That drive, watching those guys going into their senior year. Seeing them and following them each and every day. That just opened my eyes."
Cobbers senior linebacker Andrew Thompson, who starts next to Berg at inside linebacker, remembers seeing a difference in Berg after he came back from that freshman injury.
"Something changed from what I noticed," said Thompson, who is from North Bend, Wash. "It just seemed like he was more determined. He just had something extra it seemed like."
Berg led the Cobbers, along with Thompson, with 75 tackles last fall. Berg led the team in tackles during his sophomore season with 94. He had 13 tackles for a loss over the previous two seasons.
"He always raises his level," Horan said. "He loves the game and he plays it so hard and he plays with an attitude. I just love watching him."
The Cobbers haven't made the D-III playoffs since 2005. Berg is hoping to end that postseason drought.
"We're hoping to make a few more memories this year," Berg said.
What: Concordia at Wisconsin-Whitewater
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 970-AM, 93.1-FM