Football

Vikings' Berger Returns Home to Newaygo for Youth Camp

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NEWAYGO – For the straight year, Newaygo alum and current Minnesota Viking center Joe Berger returned home on Wednesday to conduct a youth football camp.

A 2005 sixth-round draft selection from Michigan Tech, Berger has spent time with the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and Vikings over a professional career that has spanned a 129 games and a dozen years.

Berger takes pride in giving back to a community has supported him since his days on Newaygo’s sidelines.

“Football's obviously a big part of my life, and I've loved it,” Berger said. “I think it teaches you a lot about life. There's more than just football in the game that these coaches can teach these kids. Just to kind of encourage that and it's good to be back in Newaygo.”

This year’s camp brought out more than 320 participants.

“It's been fun. It's a great time,” Berger said. “The kids seem to like it. The coaches do a good job of putting it on for me and helping out with it. And I just come and enjoy the day.”

For the first time since the camp began, Berger was joined by a teammate. Jeremiah Sirles attended this year’s event, which brought back fond memories for the Vikings guard.

“I was a kid like this one day,” Sirles said. “I was out at my local high school doing these camps. It really is important. It really does matter to these kids to have influences out here that if you really do work hard, you can continue your dreams and get to where you want to be.”

For campers, Wednesday’s event provided a unique opportunity to learn from some of the game’s best.

“It's great to get to know them and like how they became NFL players and just what they do,” Newaygo seventh-grader Grant Harkness said. “It shows that you can do anything when you believe in yourself.”

Funded by a grant provided by the NFL, Berger’s camp awarded prizes to attendees, including tickets to this year’s Thanksgiving Day game to see Berger and the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions.