St. Francis football player Justin Berry has drilled extensively at quarterback, taking lessons since age 9 at the position he one day hopes to play collegiately at the Division-I level.
This season, the St. Charles resident took a detour on that path for the good of his team.
Berry wrapped up his sophomore season at St. Francis when the Spartans were eliminated by Glenbard South last week in the first round of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs. After playing quarterback for the freshman team last year, Berry got the call up to varsity as a sophomore, but was shifted to cornerback, as senior Zach Prociuk was the Spartans’ QB.
“To be honest, I did [struggle with it] because I’ve been working on it so much,” Berry said. “I’ve been working on it so much during the offseason and put in so much work, but it was really [important for the team to help on defense], so that kind of helped me out in dealing with not playing quarterback. But it wasn’t very easy.”
Berry expects the hiatus from quarterback to be a one-year scenario, although he said he’s been told he’s skilled enough to play on both sides of the ball going forward.
Still, QB is where his heart is set, and where he believes his future lies. Berry already has scholarship offers from Arizona State, Temple, Akron and Youngstown State. He planned to visit Purdue this weekend, and the Boilermakers’ in-state rival, Indiana, also has shown interest, as has Boston College.
While focusing on defense took some adjusting, Berry said he enjoyed the season.
“It was really exciting and really fun for me,” Berry said. “A lot of people would expect to be treated kind of different because you’re a sophomore but when you go out there and work just as hard as [upperclassmen] do, they really learn to accept you and become good teammates.”
St. Francis had an unfortunate break for its playoff game with Glenbard South, a 47-28 loss last Saturday in Glen Ellyn. The Spartans had to play without all-state candidate running back James Butler (concussion), a rough way to take on an undefeated opponent.
Berry said the Spartans – who finished 5-5 – were confident they could play with Glenbard South, even without Butler.
“I think the hardest thing for us was seeing how hard we fought and how hard we practiced all week, and not coming out with the win,” Berry said.
Butler was one of numerous Spartans who, from a health standpoint, limped to the finish line this season. Berry feels fortunate he’s not among them, and is ready to attack offseason workouts.
“I feel great,” Berry said. “I’m extremely blessed to finish the season with zero injuries whatsoever. So many guys on our team ended up kind of nicked up with injuries. I was extremely happy I didn’t miss a play, didn’t miss anything in terms of injuries, so I’m extremely happy to come out of the season healthy.”
Berry originally planned to attend St. Charles East, but made a late decision to enroll at St. Francis just before freshman year.
He said he followed the Saints’ season, too, and remains in touch with several of the East guys.
“It’s actually fun to keep up with them and stay in touch with them and not lose the relationships I had, even though I’m at St. Francis,” Berry said.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.