Braxton Berrios loves to return punts and kickoffs, but he also can calculate return on investment.
Berrios can talk all about tracking a football, but he would be just as comfortable discussing gross margins and consumer acquisition costs with Mark Cuban, Mr. Wonderful Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner.
It won’t be surprising if on a future episode of Shark Tank, after the announcer says, "Next in the tank . . . ,'' Berrios enters the room.
Berrios wasn’t just a four-year starter and team captain at the University of Miami. He also was the valedictorian of Miami’s School of Business. He graduated with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship and achieved a 3.96 grade-point average.
His desire to star in the classroom matched his drive on the football field.
"I’m not the smartest man in any room I walk in. I’m really not," Berrios said. "But at the end of the day, I have a competitive edge and I have a switch that just doesn’t go off. So when I sat in those classes, it was either you or me.
"You got the same test I got. You got the same quiz I got. You got the same project. I was going to make sure that when I turn mine in that I was going to beat you. That carried on. Then junior year it was like, ‘Oh, wow, I might have a shot at this.’ "
The competitive classroom fire still burns in Berrios, the Jets’ valuable receiver/returner. He hasn’t gotten over the only ''B'' he received at Miami in a finance class.
"It stung. It hurt," Berrios said. "Luckily, I was able to still get that accolade at the end of those four years. That competitive edge just never turned off. Once I smelled it, once I got too close, I, not became obsessed with it, but a little bit."
To truly understand how competitive the 5-9, 190-pound Berrios is, he originally wasn’t a finance major. He added it to entrepreneurship as a freshman, thanks to a challenge from a teammate that was more like a gauntlet being thrown down in Berrios’ eyes and mind.
At a team meeting, Berrios’ coaches recognized him for attaining a 4.0 GPA in his first semester. A fellow wide receiver, who "didn’t take well" that Berrios had a higher GPA, said, "Try getting a 4.0 in upper-level finance classes."
That’s all Berrios needed to hear.
"The next week I added finance as a major," he said.
This competitive fire has served Berrios well. Although he looked up to Julio Jones, Ray Lewis and Devin Hester, Berrios lacks the size of a prototypical receiver. He makes up for it with his determination, toughness and heart.
Berrios was a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2018. The Jets signed him off waivers in 2019 and he has played in every game for them. Berrios said he’ll do "whatever, whenever" the Jets need him.
"He is ultracompetitive," offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. "I’m sure he’s been doubted, particularly when you get to this level and you’re not the biggest by far, you’re not the fastest. But there’s a level of just competitor in him and dog that he believes he’s the best one when he steps on the field. It’s not something he just tells himself. He truly believes it."
Playing in the slot behind Jamison Crowder has limited Berrios’ chances to shine on offense. He has made some big plays, though. Berrios has 69 catches for 760 yards and four touchdowns in 44 games with the Jets.
Quarterback Zach Wilson said Berrios is "one of the most trusting and reliable receivers that we have on our team and I feel 100% confident every time he’s in the game."
Berrios shines in the return game. This year he has a shot to make the Pro Bowl as a returner.
He always was a punt returner, but the Jets made him a kick returner, too. His 28.9-yard average on kickoff returns leads the league and his 13.6-yard average on punt returns ranks second. He opened last week’s game against the Eagles with a 79-yard kickoff return that led to a Jets touchdown.
Berrios’ face lights up at the prospect of making the Pro Bowl team, especially because it would mean he excelled "over the majority of the season" and he helped the team.
"That’s the part I’d take pride in," he said. "If that happens, that’s awesome."
Berrios said he loves "Shark Tank" but swears he watches film more. He looked right into the camera in the Jets’ interview room and said, "Coach, I watch film. Promise."
Football is Berrios’ sole focus, but there will come a point when he puts his double major to use and tries to become an entrepreneur.
"In the offseason, there’s a little bit more time for that," he said. "But in-season, this has been my dream. I didn’t dream of going to school. I didn’t dream of majoring in finance. I didn’t dream of being a valedictorian. I didn’t dream of any of that. I dreamed of this.
"I’m a firm believer that doors open when you need them to. When we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it. This is my life goal. This is my life dream. I’m very fortunate to be living it out right now."