ESPNU

Like his Heisman-winning uncle, ESPNU’s Berger balances passion for football, business

Coaches are starting to delve into the data and utilizing it in a variety of ways, including improving how, what, and why they structure their practice.
ESPNU’s Jon Berger, an analytics specialist for College Football Daily

ESPNU’s Jon Berger considers himself an unconventional college football analyst.

For him, it is no longer just about game tape and traditional stats when predicting and evaluating performance. Nowadays, it is about analytics.

The use of next-level statistics – in both the college game and the NFL – is growing fast and “will accelerate over the next 3-5 years,” said Berger, who appears regularly on ESPNU’s analytics show College Football Daily: The Edge.

“The technology that exists today — to capture data and then covert it to something useful and leverage it for better results — is a game-changer. Coaches are starting to delve into the data and utilizing it in a variety of ways, including improving how, what, and why they structure their practice.”

Heisman Trophy Presentation airs Saturday on ESPN

ESPN will continue its comprehensive coverage of the 2014 college football season with an exclusive live telecast of the 80th annual Heisman Trophy Presentation on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. ET.

Berger’s study of analytics extends beyond the studio, as he also is the U.S. Lead for Accenture’s sports analytics business. His two jobs allows him to dip into two passions: football and business, foundations which have been staples in his family’s lineage.

“My great uncle is Jay Berwanger, the winner of the Downtown Athletic Club trophy in 1935,” Berger said. “The following year, it was renamed to its well-known name: the Heisman Trophy. As a young kid, I spent many nights with my grandmother paging through newspaper accounts of Jay’s on-field achievements and hearing the legendary stories.”

Like his uncle, Berger had a passion for playing football. After a standout high school career in Ohio, he enrolled at Ohio State, where he was a letterman and a three-time University Scholar-Athlete. For Berger though, it was the path his uncle followed after winning the Heisman that was the most intriguing to him.

As a young kid, I spent many nights with my grandmother paging through newspaper accounts of Jay’s on-field achievements and hearing the legendary stories.
ESPNU’s Jon Berger, whose great uncle
Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as a University of Chicago RB

“Jay never played professional football. He was presented with a contract, but felt he could do better in the working world,” said Berger. “After writing for the Chicago Daily News, he coached at his alma mater, and during World War II he enrolled in the Navy’s flight-training program and became a naval officer. Eventually he founded Jay Berwanger, Inc, a manufacturing company which experienced years of success. He would remain in business the rest of his life.

“He lived a full life. He is a huge part of college football’s history, and was very successful off the field,” Berger said, who then added jokingly, “Apparently, I am a total slacker.”

Berwanger lost a long battle with lung cancer in 2002. However, for Berger and his family, every December they are afforded a unique reminder of Berwanger’s place in history when the Heisman Trophy Trust awards the Heisman Trophy, an honor that all began with Jay Berwanger.

Berger, Herbstreit share football heritage
Jon Berger (No. 33) was high school teammates with ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit (No. 14) at Centerville High School in Ohio. (Jon Berger)
Jon Berger (No. 33) was high school teammates with ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit (No. 14) at Centerville High School in Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Jon Berger)
Jon Berger’s connection to Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation extends beyond family. He also played high school and college football with ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. They were teammates at Centerville (Ohio) High in 1986 and later were teammates at Ohio State.

In high school, Herbstreit quarterbacked a wishbone offense, Berger said.

“Man, that was fun. We were nationally ranked that year and I played running back, defensive back, and kicker,” Berger said. “But, looking back, I really just mostly blocked for Kirk – guy could run. I think back on those days with fond memories. We had a blast and it was a really good bunch of guys including Andy Harmon – an All-Pro with the Philadelphia Eagles. Nowadays, when we all get together the stories are gut-busting funny!”

Back to top button
Close