When Sam Bergen found out he could return for a sixth year the decision was easy.
A behind-the-scenes worker and backup to Michael Burton in 2014, Bergen now has his chance to be a Big Ten starter with the Scarlet Knights.
“The deciding factor was, if I could get another year to play major college football at Rutgers University in the Big Ten, who in their right mind wouldn’t want that?,” Bergen said.
Bergen came to Rutgers as a linebacker, and moved to fullback as an underclassman. He applied for a sixth year following multiple season-ending injuries.
Granted a sixth year by the NCAA, Bergen projects as the starting fullback in 2015 spring camp.
“Michael is a great player,” Bergen said on the departing Michael Burton, who is headed to the NFL Combine. “He did a very good job for us both on the field and as a leader. He’s going to have a ton of success at the next level. But with him leaving, there’s a void that needs to be filled at the fullback position. I’m more than ready to step in and get that job done for us.”
The 6-foot-, 235-pounder from nearby East Stroudsburg (Pa.) has 27 career games under his belt – he missed 2011 and 2013 with injuries – and gets his most significant role to date in his return.
Bergen’s competition in spring includes sophomore Kevin Marquez, a former walk-on, and red-shirt freshman Jacob Kraut. Bergen wants a leadership role in the room along with his chance to start in 2015.
“For me being an older guy in the program, I feel like I set a pretty good example for the younger guys,” Bergen said. “That’s not just the other fullbacks but everyone on the team. I try and lead by example. Do everything the right way on the football field, in the weight room, in the classroom. Being an older guy, I know that I may be looked to by the younger guys than I ever have before. I’m ready to take on that responsibility.”
Bergen received his Rutgers degree last semester with a major in economics and minor in psychology. Enrolled in the Rutgers School of Labor and Employment Relations, Bergen gets three semesters toward a post-graduate degree during his sixth year on campus.
“This next year of eligibility will also end up benefiting me in the classroom as well,” Bergen said.
“I played with [Robinson and Laryea] for a couple of years,” Bergen said. “I still see them around the Hale Center, so it’s nice to see those guys. Last time I saw Ed, my sixth year was still up in the air. I told him I was trying to get it. His only big word of advice for me was to get in those cold tubs every single day. … As an older guy, you have to keep your body as fresh as possible.”