QB has made large footprint

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

Jackrabbit starting quarterback Ryan Berry is no ordinary student athlete. He has won a conference championship, earned nearly a 3.9 G.P.A. and is a senior leader.

Former teammate Reed Burckhardt has said that Berry was a great teammate and everybody on the team would back him on that.

Still, Berry is humble, talented and quick to give credit to others on his team.

On Oct. 29, Berry was awarded for his performance off the field by being named a semi-finalist for the Draddy Trophy. The National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame gives the so-called “academic Heisman Trophy.”

The lucky 15 semi-finalists were picked out of many college football athletes.

“We set extremely high standards just to be considered as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete class,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton and Eli were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, respectively. “These individuals far exceed even those high standards.”

On the field, the Watertown native has passed for more than 2,500 yards, more than any other Missouri Valley Football passer this year.

His two favorite targets in 2008 are Glen Fox (56 catches) and JaRon Harris (55 catches), who are number one and two in catches in conference play.

In his career, Berry has passed for the most touchdowns (52) in school history. He is 359 yards from being the top passer in SDSU history. If Berry averages a little more than 200 yards in his last two games, he will overtake the single season passing yards record. Berry is averaging 274 yards a game.

Last week, the senior captain broke the school record for touchdowns in a single game by two touchdown passes. As a bonus, he broke the record on Senior Day and also set the Missouri Valley Football Conference record for touchdowns in a single game.

His wife, Caitlin, who is on the cross country team, is a big supporter of her husband. A week away from running in the NCAA Midwest Regional meet in Stillwater, Okla., she was one of the loyal fans who stayed the whole game.

“I’m so glad he had such a great game in his last home game. I’m glad I was there,” she said.

Within the FCS, last year’s All-District and Great West Football Conference Academic team representative has thrown for 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions so far this season.

If SDSU wins its final two games, the Jacks will be named conference champions in back-to-back years. The last time the Jacks won a conference before 2007 was in 1963.

Since the beginning of the season, head Jackrabbits football coach John Stiegelmeier has put pressure on Berry and has added responsibilities for the signal caller.

“Ryan has done a great job for us so far. A senior quarterback is a good thing for a football team,” he said.

Within the last three weeks, Berry has produced big numbers. The last three weeks against Indiana State, Illinois State and Missouri State combined, Berry had over 750 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Last week against ISU, not only was Berry named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week, but he was named the Co-Offensive National Player of the Week by The Sports Network. The senior threw for seven scores and had 237 yards in front of a national audience.

The first game against Iowa State was nationally televised, as well. In that game, Berry did not have the performance like last week’s, as he had five interceptions in a 44-17 loss to open the season.

Berry will get a third chance to play in front of a national audience during the Dakota Marker game in two weeks against North Dakota State on Nov. 22.

SDSU’s lone loss in conference is to the University of Northern Iowa. That game saw Berry pass for a single touchdown and a costly interception.

The UNI loss might keep the Jacks out of the FCS playoffs even if the Jacks win their final five games for the second year in a row. SDSU is currently on a three-game winning streak.

Last week, Berry was aware of his individual achievements because his teammates were telling him how close he was to the records.

But, the only statistic that he was concerned with was winning the football game.

“Ryan is a very team-first guy,” said sophomore running back Kyle Minett. “If he has to hand off the ball every play and we won, I guarantee he’ll do it.”