On Oct. 17, 2015, the USD football team upset the Carson Wentz-led North Dakota State University team that had won five straight Football Chamionship Subdivision championships.
Kicker Miles Bergner kicked the game-winning field goal that broke the tie as time expired.
The kick turned Bergner into a Coyote superstar, earning him a tailgate section named in his honor.
Now a senior, Bergner is attracting national attention from NFL teams.
The Colorado native played in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl in California on Jan. 21.
“It was definitely eye-opening in terms of gaining a view and how it works, especially from the Players Association side,” Bergner said.
Bergner was the placekicker for the National Team, which won the game 27-7. He made two field goals and three extra points, racking up nine points in the game.
In addition to playing in the game, Bergner was interviewed by scouts.
Scouts from the Seahawks, Bears, Redskins, Rams, Chiefs and Falcons all interviewed the
“They want to know things about you as a person,” Bergner said. “Everything you’ve done as a football player is already documented. They want to know how you break down your job, what your family life is like. They really go into depth in terms of what they’re looking for and whether you’re valuable or a liability to them.”
USD special teams coach Phil Ockinga said Bergner has a lot of potential and could make a team, but probably won’t be drafted.
“It’s really hard for these guys to get drafted,” he said. “You have to be like the number one. When it comes to punters and kickers, it’s all about timing. Some of these kickers will be in the league for fifteen years, so you have to come in at the right place and right time.”
Bergner isn’t expecting to be drafted, but he could sign with a team as an undrafted free agent.
“I would be surprised if I got drafted,” he said. “I know a lot of people want me to (be drafted), but I can’t see an NFL team drafting me this year. I could join a team after the draft, but I don’t foresee myself getting drafted
Former South Dakota State University kicker Adam Vinatieri kicking the game-winning field goal in the 2004 Super Bowl for the New England Patriots inspired Bergner to become a kicker, he said.
“I started kicking in my house,” he said. “I never broke anything, I’ve knocked a couple things down. What happened is I would line up in my living room at the bottom of the stairs and kick up to the second floor. One time I hit a picture at the top of the stairs. Instead of stopping, I just took the photo off the wall and put it aside.”
While many players transitioning to the NFL are unable to meet the expectations of teams and fans, Bergner thinks he could rise to the occasion in the NFL.
“You have to keep putting work in,” he said. “I’ve got past the physical limitations, so I fit the qualifications of being considered an athlete. Just like everything in the world, if you don’t put work in it, it will go away.”
Ockinga said Bergner has the body and power to fit into both roles for any team.
“Usually your punter’s a long, linear kid and your kicker is thick in the lower half,” he said. “He’s kind of an in-between. For him, he has a really quick snap, his kick is really fast.”
Ockinga said he highly values Bergner and puts him among the best at his position in this draft class.
“He’s one of the top three punters and one of the top four to five kickers,” he said. “Combining these, I think he’ll be very valuable to any team.”
Ockinga said Bergner has a passion for kicking and will be a great success in the NFL, if given
“(Bergner) wants to kick all day long,” he said. “But kickers and punters are like pitchers in baseball, they can only kick so much before they need rest. But he can go all day and go at it again the next.”
Bergner hopes to keep his role of punter and kicker, but is open to playing one position and backing up the other.
“Teams like the versatility I can offer,” he said. “If a kicker or punter gets hurt, I could back them up for a couple weeks if it’s a minor injury or a sickness.”
Although it has been a lifelong dream to play in the NFL, Bergner was unsure he was good enough to play football for a period of time, until he kicked the game-winner against NDSU his sophomore year.
“At one point in my career I had written myself off here,” Bergner said. “I had a string of missed kicks and was a little down on myself. Sure enough, we went up to Fargo and that changed it very quickly. I think the moral of the story is when you’re down it doesn’t mean you’re out.”
Bergner is thankful for USD athletics and
“Thank you for supporting me, through thick and thin. I’m really grateful. I ended up with my own tailgate section somehow. It’s just a special thing,” he said. “And now I know, looking back, that I made the best decision coming here.”