Campbell County High School senior Justin Berkey has spent enough time in physical therapy with various football dings and bruises to have an eye-opening experience.
Now football is going to help pay for a degree in physical therapy.
The Wyoming Class 4A all-state selection signed a national letter of intent to play NAIA football at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, next fall.
“I’ve been in physical therapy all the time. I thought about it and thought that’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind being a physical therapist,” Berkey said.
The Camel all-conference, all-state selection will get the best of both worlds. No. 3 Morningside lost a heartbreaker in overtime in the Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship last season. So he’s headed to a nationally ranked program, coming off its best football season in school history.
He will play for 2012 NAIA national coach of the year Steve Ryan, who was selected by both the American Football Coaches Association and American Football Monthly. The Mustangs had 10 players named to the NAIA All-America team.
“It will be nice to go from a winning high school program to another winning program,” said Berkey, who will also play in the Wyoming Shrine Bowl in June. “One of the things I learned from (Camel head) coach (Vic) Wilkerson is to never give up no matter how challenging it might be.
“Make yourself better no matter how much work it takes.”
Berkey comes from good stock and will not have any trouble making the level change, Wilkerson said.
“Justin has been a great player for us. He led by the work ethic that he showed during practice and that trait will help him be successful at the next level,” the Camel head coach said. “He was an all-state selection at both offense line and defensive end.”
Berkey, the conference lineman of the year, had 3.5 tackles per game, 17 solo tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss.
Berkey toured the Morningside College football facility and had a look around the campus on a recent visit.
“I talked with the defensive coordinator (Nathan Turner) and he said playing time is all up to me. If I work really hard and show them I can play, I have a good chance of getting reps,” Berkey said. “The competition is amped up a level-and-a-half, so I have prepare myself for that. So I’m just going to work as hard as I can to be ready.”
As for the rest of it, it all felt right as he and his family took a look around the campus.
“I really like the campus. It’s spread out and not too compact,” he said. “My dad (David) said picture a campus you can see yourself going to, and I can see myself going to that college for the next four years,”
Sioux City, Iowa has a population of 82,684, so he will be going to a city twice the size of his hometown.
“The Missouri River runs right through Sioux City, that’s one of the things that caught my eye,” he said. “I like to fish. So as I was looking at the river I was thinking I could catch a lot of fish. It was pretty impressive.”