Quarterback tries for award in NYC

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

In the first game of the football season, Ryan Berry threw five picks against Iowa State. Now, the senior from Watertown is nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in college football.

Berry was one of the 15 finalists for the Draddy Trophy, which is also known as the Academic Heisman. In order to even be nominated, an athlete has to make a major contribution to the team, have a grade-point average of at least 3.2, be in his final year of eligibility and demonstrate strong leadership and citizenship.

Berry, a biology and pre-medicine major, has all the requirements covered. He has compiled a GPA of 3.89, is a team captain, set several school records this past year and plays an active role in the community. Just for being a finalist for the award, Berry received an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship and is an NFF Scholar Athlete, the first ever from SDSU.

“Personally, it doesn’t mean a ton maybe, but I think just for the school and the direction the school is going,” Berry said about being a scholar athlete. “There were a lot of naysayers about the move to Division I and how it will hurt academics and such, but I think we’ve really excelled. It’s just a testament to where this program is going that we are having success in our athletic fields and a lot of success in the classroom. Now, it’s being recognized.”

Berry, his wife, Caitlin, – a member of the cross country and track teams – several family members and head coach John Stiegelmeier flew to New York City on Dec. 8, with the award being presented Dec. 9. Berry did not win the Draddy, but he was occupied with several activities, including: a Christmas spectacular, dinner at Mickey Mantle’s restaurant and then the Hall of Fame induction, during which Berry will rub shoulders with the likes of Lou Holtz, Troy Aikman and Thurman Thomas.

As for the competition, Berry went up against the likes of Chase Daniel, the quarterback at Missouri, Graham Harrell, quarterback at Texas Tech, and Brian Robiskie, a wide receiver at Ohio State University. Berry said he was fortunate just to be mentioned with some of the names at the ceremony. Alex Mack of the University of California Berkley won the trophy.

“I don’t really know how to describe it really,” Berry said. “It was such an honor to be a semi-finalist. Then to be in the list with some of these other names, it’s like ‘Wow.’ It’s hard to put into perspective and put it into words.”

Berry has proven to be a true leader for the Jacks. He threw seven touchdowns against Illinois State and led the Jacks to a comeback victory over rival North Dakota State to retain the Dakota Marker; the Jacks’ win against NDSU was also the first win by SDSU in Fargo since 1962.

When Berry stepped on campus five years ago, he had not even thought things like this were possible; he “just wanted to play.” Now, Berry’s collegiate career ended up as one of the best in SDSU football history, and he had the chance to end with hoisting one last trophy. Who would have thought it was possible on that day back in August?