Ryan VanBergen took his first steps toward fulfilling a lifelong dream yesterday when he accepted an offer to become a Michigan Wolverine. He still can't quite get over how quickly everything transpired. Apparently Coach Carr almost got an indication of just how surprised the youngster actually was.
"My family was sitting in Coach Carr's office and we talked for about 40 minutes," Van Bergen said. "About 30 minutes into our conversation he told me that he had a scholarship for me. My brother saw me almost pass out (laughing). I went to their summer camp as sophomore going into my junior season and I actually met Coach Carr then. I was the outstanding defensive lineman at the camp. From then on they invited me down to some games. I could tell that they were interested, but that they were going to offer was a complete shock because it never seemed like they were more interested than they were at any other point. I had no clue it was coming. It was way unexpected."
"I did not commit right away because my mom had never seen the facilities down there before," he continued. "It had always been my brother, me, and my dad. After talking to coach Carr and thanking him for the offer, we went down to the new student academic center, which is amazing. I got to meet the professor of psychology, John Hagan. That is what I want to major in. Michigan really rolled out the red carpet in that sort of sense. My mom was really impressed with the academic facilities and the campus. They took her, my dad, and my brother on a tour of the campus while I sat in on a D-line meeting. Coach Stripling introduced me to every single guy there and they all were very welcoming. They gave me the time of day, which was surprising considering the caliber players they were. Then we went to practice and I met up with my mom and dad after they got done with the tour. I told them I was ready to commit and they gave me the thumbs up."
While it's clear the academics at Michigan were a major selling point for the VanBergen's, it's also obvious that Ryan's relationship with his future coach, Steve Stripling, was a significant factor as well.
"That started at camp," VanBergen said regarding his bond with Michigan's defensive line coach. "That was my first time ever playing the defensive end spot. That's why I was kind of nervous going into camp. It was a brand new position for me but my coach was having me make that transition for my team in high school. I went in as a d-end and I had never played d-end before. I wasn't the best at the beginning. I had to learn stances and stuff, but I'm really responsive to Coach Stripling's coaching techniques. By the end of the camp I was one of the top 5 or top 10 defensive linemen there with seniors and everything. I got to know him and his coaching styles and I've been in contact with him since June of last year. I've really gotten to know him and to like him as a coach. Right now defensive end is the primary position. Coach Stripling told me that they are also maybe giving me a look at tight end. I really don't mind either side of the ball. I'm overjoyed to know that I'm playing defensive line. If they want me to play tight end, that's awesome too. Pretty much wherever I can help out. I'm just looking forward to playing! (Laughing)."
VanBergen reeled in 20 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns at his tight end slot and 59 solo tackles, 32 tackles for loss and seven sacks from his defensive end post. That impressive versatility likely played a major role in his early offer from the Maize and Blue. That said, as impressive as his physical abilities are, VanBergen doesn't feel that's his strongest suit as a player.
"The strength of my game would be my knowledge," he said. "I go over my own game tape without the coaches there. I look at both myself and the other guys. If the offensive lineman I'm going up against can't step left, I'm going left against him. I've developed a knowledge for the game that I think is something that kind of sets me apart from other people. I know exactly what I'm going to do going into a game based on what I've seen through film."
Now that he knows exactly where he is going to college, there's seemingly less of reason to attend the various combines and camps that are offered over the spring and summer. VanBergen, however, indicated that he still may participate in a few.
"I might still go down to the Nike camp in Columbus on May 5th to see some of the guys at my position and see what maybe I have to work for," he said. "I'll definitely be going back down to the Michigan camp because I love the atmosphere down there obviously."
Be on the lookout for Scout.com video of VanBergen in action very soon.
On whether he knows any of the current Michigan players:
"I know Terrance Taylor. He's from Muskegon which is just down the road from me. I threw shot and disc against him. We also ran a 200 against each other at Muskegon and tore up the track (laughing). He didn't call me out specifically… he called any thrower that wanted to race him out. The throwers were all just kind of standing around because we were down. I'm a little sophomore and I said, 'hey, I'll race you,'because I'm thinking this dude is big, you know. I had never run the 200 before. That was the first time I ever ran one. I caught in the corner…I was in lane one and he was in lane two. But once I caught him I started tiring out and all of sudden I hear him grunting behind me so it was more a sprint for my life than it was a sprint to the finish (laughing). That's probably the most remembered 200 at Muskegon right now."