It’s still hard to imagine, really. Long Island’s all-time leading rusher gets courted by every big-name school and chooses West Virginia. Said all-time rusher’s half-brother, whose biggest job was opening holes for the tailback, gets signed as well, almost as an afterthought.
That was five years ago, when Scooter Berry was simply known as Jason Gwaltney’s brother, blocker and best friend at North Babylon High.
Scooter’s the real story now. Berry is entering his third season on the West Virginia defensive line, a bright young man with a bright future who has embraced life in Morgantown long after Gwaltney left.
“I love my brother. He took a different path, and he’s doing well now,” Berry said after a Mountaineers practice earlier this week. “He’s just taking a little longer to get down his path. For me, I just feel like I’m doing my job, like always. Just that nobody noticed it until a little while ago.”
They’ve noticed in the Big East, where Berry was second-team all-conference last season. That was at defensive end. This year, Berry will play almost exclusively at defensive tackle, barring any injuries.
It’s a spot that suits Berry well — a thankless position where you get one or two offensive linemen wrestling you on every play, while the outside guys get the glory.
He loves it.
“You get to put your hands and your pads on someone every play,” he said. “That’s the best part of this whole thing.”
If it’s possible for a player on the Lombardi Award watch list to go by without much notice, it’s Berry. He said he’s added 15 pounds this offseason — he’s now 294, standing 6-1 — and he’s the anchor of a line that his position coach, Bill Kirelawich, doesn’t think is very deep.
“I don’t have a guy at tackle behind Scooter,” said Kirelawich, a crusty veteran in his 31st season on the Mountaineers staff. “We stink.”
But assessments like those assume that Berry will maintain his steady presence despite a lack of depth and some question marks off the ends of the line.
Speaking of question marks, the Mountaineers have to find a way to replace their Mr. Everything, quarterback Pat White. Competing in the Big East may not be such a challenge; no schools from the conference are ranked in the preseason top 25 and the Mountaineers received some votes for the conference title, behind Pittsburgh.
Beyond that, Berry swears he’s not thinking about much. He’s 23, with one year of eligibility beyond this one, and the one thing the Big East has done of late is produce draft picks — 27 in this year’s draft.
“After the postseason is for that stuff,” he said. “I’m thinking about my team, my teammates and trying to win games.”
And also being a leader. He may not get much recognition as an interior defensive lineman, but he’s a veteran on a unit that doesn’t have many.
“I try to lead by example,” he said, “but when coach [Bill] Stewart wants me to be vocal, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that.”