Family matters: Penn. LB Sam Bergen

As hard as we try at The Bootleg, plenty of college football stars fly entirely under the radar in high school, often due to a lack of exposure or untimely injury. Pennsylvania LB Sam Bergen, brother of Stanford LB Max, thinks he could be a sleeper in the making, and he's thinking coaching staffs around the country might just figure that out too.

Eastern Pennsylvania linebacker Sam Bergen (East Stroudsburg South HS) had strong freshmen and sophomore years, but a torn ACL ended his junior season ended early. Bergen, though, says he'll soon be good as new – and is doing his part to help colleges take notice.

"I was out at Rutgers and Pitt for their Junior Days," Bergen told in a Saturday afternoon interview. "I've been to Michigan State and Michigan, and I'm actually on the way back from UConn's spring game. Next week, I'm going out to Penn State for their Junior Day."

Bergen later added that he'd also attended an Illinois game and also could be interested in Northwestern.

Of most interest to our audience, however, is likely to be another visit entirely, as Bergen travelled to Stanford over Easter weekend, April 11-13.

"My dad and I went there Saturday morning," Bergen said. "We went up to practice and from there met with my brother Max Bergen, a linebacker, and hung out with him that night. Then we spent Easter Sunday together, and then first thing Monday, I got up, went to the football building and went to breakfast with the training table. From there, I went to class with my brother, went through the academic part of the visit, went to meetings about the spring game, and then watched the spring game."

An involved visit produced a simple assessment.

"I liked the atmosphere, the coaches, the school, everything about it," said Bergen, still waiting on his first offer. "… They haven't offered me yet, but I'll be out to their camp this summer. Hopefully they offer me around then, but you never know."

One reason for the uncertainty, of course, is Bergen's left ACL tear. He says he was on a steady upward trajectory prior to one fateful day.

"I started as a freshman at linebacker and played a little DT, and was First Team All-Area. Then, my sophomore season, I started at linebacker and got First Team All-League. But then, last year, I only played one game.

"When it happened, I was actually playing football at the time. I made a cut in the field and my leg just kind of went out. I was playing on turf, so it didn't give out."

Shortly after the early-September tear, Bergen found himself under the knife of Dr. Russell Warren, who performed a Sept. 26 surgery. Warren, the New York Giants team physician, did his job well, as Bergen reports his recovery is going better than expected.

"The rehab is going great," he said. "I'm way ahead of schedule, and it feels normal, I've just been working on strength. … Most doctors, they say nine months, but Dr. Warren says his patients take six to seven months for recovery. I'm just around that time right now, and I'm ahead of schedule. I'll be back to 100 percent in two weeks."

Healthier days, Bergen hopes, lie ahead.

"I'm just looking forward to this season," he said. "As a team, we're looking win our district and go on to the state playoffs. We'll be really good this year, so hopefully we can go on from there. This year individually, I hope to make All-State, instead of All-League or All-Area."

Bergen said he is looking to better his sophomore-year total of five sacks and register at least 100 tackles this upcoming season. His strength and speed figure to be assets. He reports a bench of 400, a squat of 450 (down from a pre-injury 500), and a 4.61 40-yard dash, ran last year.

"I'm really trying to increase my speed for next year," Bergen said. "It's probably the most important part besides actual skill, so I'm working on my speed."

For Stanford fans at least, all Bergen's effort may be for naught were the younger Bergen to end up on another campus. While it's still incredibly early – Bergen has yet to receive an offer, after all – the Cardinal appear to be in as good a position as any program.

"Everything [Max] says about Stanford is good, and it makes me feel a lot more confident with Stanford than any other school," Sam Bergen said. "He really likes the coaches and his teammates, and he also likes the academic part of it. It seems like everyone feels the same as my brother too. They all love being there, and love Coach Harbaugh."

Perhaps it's how early it still is, or perhaps it's a testament to the impression Stanford left, but Bergen has a hard time saying where else has impressed him.

"Stanford probably sticks out the most, but after Stanford, [pause], I don't really know yet, not at this point," Bergen said. "It's kind of hard to tell who's really serious with my knee injury, so I'll try to get offers and then see. I definitely won't pick up any offers until I go to camps, because a lot of teams want to make sure I can run again. I can, so it's just a matter of time."

Bergen reports a 3.98 GPA and 1200 two-part SAT score.

"I'm a very good student, so I don't think I'll have a problem getting into Stanford or any other academic school," he said.

As Bergen said himself, finding that out may be just a matter of time. Stay tuned to The Bootleg – we'll be there.

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