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Interview Jonte Berry Offensive Lineman Draft Prospect Northwestern Oklahoma

TSJ101 Interview

 

Jonte Berry Guard/Tackle Northwestern Oklahoma State University 2016 NFL Draft Prospect

I’m always impressed when I see an NFL draft prospect taking the time to spread his name through social media, looking to push that extra mile to get their name out before the big day.  When Jonte Berry sent me his highlight reel, I was immediately impressed by the speed he exhibits exploding off the line of scrimmage.  When we think of offensive lineman, typically “speed” is not the first word to come to mind.  We think of the big, strong guys, acting like mountains to keep the defenders away from their passers and rushers.  Berry has the physical presence to make the traditional tackles, but he also adds that extra speed dynamic which will make him a valuable addition to any NFL team.  These skills have made him successful playing high school football in Texas and most recently on the collegiate stage at NWOSU.  Don’t take my word for it, see the video for yourself:

 

When I saw the versatility in play style and that Jonte Berry can act in both the guard and tackle positions on the offensive line, I knew I was talking to a special kind of player and I extended the offer for an interview.  Standing at 6’5″ and weighing in at 320 pounds, Berry is in the ideal range and ideal shape for both positions. Practicing with not only his offensive line coach, but also the tight end coach and wide receivers coach, Berry maintains the pure strength required to execute his tackles and buy time for his quarterback while giving that extra burst of speed to offer that extra protection to create run lanes for his backs.

I consider the offensive lineman the unsung heroes of the NFL.  These guys are out there getting physical on every single play, taking hits, and being they are typically the largest guys on the field they show incredible endurance.  As fans of our respective teams, we may not speak often of the individuals on the line, but we all know they can make or break the season.  We are quick to blame the line when our favorite quarterbacks fail to execute.  The offensive line can also be the difference between being the NFL rushing leader and having a less than stellar season, just ask DeMarco Murray.  Any offensive line would benefit from adding Jonte Berry.

Aside from being impressed with his film, I was also impressed by Jonte Berry’s personality.  Berry was extremely friendly and outgoing while still being humble and thankful.  In our initial interactions, I found him engaged in my interview process, understanding about my currently hectic schedule, and just a down to earth all around nice guy, the boy next door if you will that just happens to have great talent on the football field.  Berry’s strong faith was immediately apparent and through my questions I learned he is not only a great athlete and teammate but already a leader in his community.  Scouts take note, Jonte Berry is not someone you want to overlook.

Without further introduction, here is the text of our interview, please enjoy getting to know Jonte Berry.


 

Me:

Can you please give our readers a breakdown of your history with the game of football?

Jonte Berry:

Well I started off my football career in the 7th grade at a school called Paul Revere Middle School in Houston,Texas. Football has always excited me.  I was a huge fan of NFL Blitz the game growing up. I tried out for the team, at this time I played on the defensive side of the ball as defensive tackle that was my last stint as a d-lineman. Going into the 8th grade this was something I started to become passionate about, I knew from there I would want to play Texas high school football which is a big deal even in a city as big as Houston is.

Me:

Texas high school football has a reputation in the rest of the country for being pretty epic, tell me about some of your achievements playing high school ball and your favorite moment.

Jonte Berry:

Totally, Texas high school football is one of the things I’m very proud of.  I played at Alief Taylor High School, 5a which was the highest at the time since then my school has move to 6a. My biggest accomplish was my senior year going 3rd round of the playoffs which hasn’t been done since the year I left, 2010. But the one I was most proud of was as a Junior, facing our rival Elsik High School down the entire game to come back and beat them in double overtime.  It was the game to take us to the playoffs, as well it was my first time facing adversity in my life. I knew after that game, I knew there wasn’t any feat I couldn’t accomplish.

Me:

From there how did you end up at Northwestern Oklahoma?

Jonte Berry:

When I ended up NWOSU I was in a tough position.  I just left the first university I committed to, Clark Atlanta, unfortunately the coaching staff got fired, when they did I left. I couldn’t find a school.  At that time my Juco Head Coach, J.J Eckert, was the one who looked out for me by introducing  to my offensive line coach, Coach Turco, at NWOSU.

Me:

Tell me about your most memorable game on the college field.

Jonte Berry:

I would have to say my red shirt freshman year at Kilgore Junior College.  At that time I was playing right tackle. We had an away road game at Cisco Junior College, who had the conference MVP as well as the best passing offense in our conference. They chose us to be their homecoming that year.  The weather was bad, real bad, there was a monsoon from Mexico all the way to North Dakota and we were caught in the middle of it. Early in the game, offensively as a line we weren’t as physically dominate as how we usual were when facing a 3-4 defense, which kinda threw us off. They got up on us 10-0, so when this happened the weather got really bad, so much that we had at least three lightening delays. On top of that, they didn’t have a visitor locker room so its 50 guys wet with pads on in the small shed. They wanted us to forfeit the game but we weren’t about to go down like that.  The lightning stopped but the rain was still pouring down heavy.  In all my years of football never have I seen something this special. We came out a little early to do warm-ups, every group from the o-line to skill positions did their drills fiercely while yelling in the rain with no coaches overlooking us. We were some pumped and amped, they came out of the their indoor facility shocked at how ready we were to play that they tried to pretend to be hyped. We got to kick first play, my teammate Derrick Smith hit somebody so hard he fumbled, we recovered it we got the ball. We switched to wildcat formation, had my teammate Olin “The Spark”Terry as quarterback, he was our running back but changed him to that because the conditions were so bad  we tied up the game 10-10. The weather continued to get worse, so bad that we had to play the game Monday night in Dallas,Texas.  Eventually we beat them 21-10.  It was my proudest victory ever, at that moment I knew I could overcome anything in my life through that game.

Me:

What would you say sets you apart from other offensive linemen entering the draft?

Jonte Berry:

There are  a few things such as my versatility, playing a different position.  This was my first time in my career playing guard.  It didn’t take me long to adjust, I feel being able to adjust to different situations and circumstances, having the openness to step out of my comfort zone is something that benefits me.

Me:

I feel the offensive line is one of the most physically demanding positions in football.  What impressed me with your film is your speed off the line, what workouts do you do to keep the size required for the physical aspects while still retaining that speed?

Jonte Berry:

I appreciate the compliment.  My coaches at Northwestern have taken the time to each help with different aspects of training. My tight ends coach, Coach Rodgers, helps me with my lifting as far as plyometrics and Olympic style lifting. My wide receivers coach, Coach Stewart has me working on my explosiveness, running up the hill as well as agility work with the hill. Then my o-line coach, Coach Mckaig is helping with my lateral quickness as well as lineman drills.

Me:

And what about diet?  What does a typical day’s meal plan look like?

Jonte Berry:

Diet is grilled chicken with steamed broccoli and carrots with fruit and water as breakfast as well as snacks.

Me:

Is there a specific coach or team you feel your talent would most benefit?

Jonte Berry:

I would say the Rams coach, Jeff Fisher.  He is a great leader as well as having great coaching tenure with teams as well as having stability. I think with me blocking for running back Todd Gurley I would easily cater to their scheme, being that they are a run first oriented type team now.

Me:

Are there any players past or present you look up to as inspirational?

Jonte Berry:

I have a few, but one that stands out to me the most is a teammate from high school, his name is Trevin Giles.  We lined up against each countless numbers of times because he played defensive end. What made me respect him the most was his work ethic, seeing him never quitting or backing down from a challenge has always been something that inspired me to keep pushing even to this point. His work ethic has carried over to his new passion, MMA fighting where he is currently an undefeated champion.

Me:

Are there any players you would say your play style resembles?

Jonte Berry:

Yes, I see a lot me in the Cowboys guard La’el Collins.  We both played tackle most of our careers up until this point and have pretty good transitions to guard.

Me:

If you had a moment to sell yourself to talent scouts what would you want them to know about you?

Jonte Berry:

I would tell them that I am a guy who is humble, that won’t let the lifestyle or the notoriety get to his head. I’m a leader, someone who you can hold accountable on and off the field. One that wants to help others as well, with opportunities for people by giving back to the community. That I’m a hard-working young man who is dedicated to his faith, teammates, and his playbook.

Me:

If you had a message for today’s youth looking to make it as a college athlete, what would you tell them?

Jonte Berry:

I would tell them three things that will be the keys to their success time management, choices, and composure. Time management is critical because so much of the time consists of you being a student athlete, put your priorities in order like going to class doing your workouts etc. Next are choices.  I have seen so many people be influenced by others, be a leader, be someone who sets an example in a positive light instead of being made an example out of.  Last, composure.  How do you handle things like when the coach benches you or a teacher not liking you just because they consider you a “jock.”  Don’t fall into those labels that people tend to put on athletes show them that you are bright, intelligent, and are mannerable.  Everyone faces adversity, it is just how you apply yourself when it happens.

Me:

When you’re not on the field or practicing how do you enjoy spending your free time?

Jonte Berry:

Well, being that I’m student of the game, I watch a lot of lineman drills or NFL videos of lineman blocking all the time. I also am the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes here at NWOSU. Also, I like to hangout with teammates, whether we are studying or playing video games.

Me:

Tell me a bit about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and what you do as the president.

Jonte Berry:

Well, I started Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a speaker in Spring of 2015 I had to sit out that semester in order to play my senior year of football.  One teammates from California, Anthony Amaro and his family let me stay with them during this time. His father, Steve Amaro, is a big community activist in their neighborhood as well at his son’s old high school. One day he invited me to a banquet for the junior varsity football team, not really having the intention of speaking, he introduced me then told me to tell my story. The parents and students were impressed, as well as the FCA leader of the Fresno, California area, Ron Nelson.  He reached out to me and asked would I like to speak to schools. The first speech I dealt with anxiety and pressure of trying hard to maintain composure, but after repetition, the help of my uncle, Steve Amaro, my confidence got better and my speeches got better. It started to impact kid’s lives.  I did a total of 7 speeches at different schools throughout the Fresno area it was an amazing experience.  I just became the president recently this semester I asked Mr.Shane Hansen about what has happened to the FCA here at NWOSU this semester, he told me lack of interest and leadership. So I have taken it in my hands as the president of the organization to make it more fun and interesting I feel that God has given me many talents, one of them being able to speak very well.

Me:

If you were interviewing yourself, what’s one question you would ask yourself, and what is your answer to that question?

Jonte Berry:

My question: what is the motto you live by?
In order to call yourself great you must leave a legacy.  I made that up in my 8th grade in English Class I wrote that on this orange folder it is a quote that I feel fits me and who I am.

Before I give my final thoughts, please take a moment to listen to Jonte Berry speak.  This is one of his speeches given through his work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I think seeing him deliver the words really cements the fact that he is indeed a humble and grateful young man.  So many potential professional athletes speak about future plans to give back to the community once they’ve made it big, here we are dealing with a humble man, blessed to be playing the game he loves at the college level, and preparing for that next step in his football career who is already giving back and helping the next generation realize their dreams though sharing his experiences and faith.


 

As you can see, Jonte Berry is not just an exceptional athlete, but also a good and honorable man.  In a world where the headlines are monopolized by domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and locker room strife, it is refreshing to see stories of players making a difference in a positive light.  The NFL celebrates it’s athletes who give back with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, won this year by Anquan  Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers.  It’s easy to forget how many professional football players are doing amazing things in their communities when the media focuses on the negative.  Jonte Berry will bring this spirit of community philanthropy to his future team as well as his leadership and athleticism.  Berry’s future quarterback and running backs will feel safe and well protected behind a man who will earn their respect both on and off the field.  Keep your eyes and ears open, we’ll be seeing more of Berry in the future.

12006212_10204891420588701_2009481345930046532_nIn the words of Jonte Berry, “In order to call yourself great you must leave a legacy.”  How many of us can call ourselves great?  What legacy will we leave behind?  As seen through Berry’s work it doesn’t take money or even fame to give back.  What are we going to do to thank our own communities?

I see in Jonte Berry a budding legacy of being a top-notch offensive lineman with speed and physical dominance, a teammate players will be proud to share the locker room with due to his humble, friendly, and versatile nature, and a leader within the community giving back through his strong values and faith.  I’m honored I was able to get to know this young man and look forward to seeing where his legacy of greatness takes him.

 

Until next time, dear readers, strive to be great.

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