Earlier this month Allstate and the NABC announced their 2014 Good Works Team (which recognizes players for their commitment to community service). One of the five D-1 players selected was Utah State forward Danny Berger, who has recovered from a near-death experience of his own to teach others how to prevent a tragedy from occurring in the future. CHD’s Jon Teitel got to sit down with Danny to chat about all the true meaning of “survive and advance”.
You spent two years on an LDS mission before coming to Utah State. How did you enjoy the mission, and what made you choose the Aggies? I did One year of junior college before beginning my mission in Detroit, which was a really great experience. I chose Utah State due to the basketball tradition and the school environment.
You sat out the first six games of your sophomore season while deciding whether or not to redshirt, what was the deciding factor, and was it weird to make the switch from redshirt to active player? I was planning to redshirt after not playing a lot of basketball during my mission, but I was able to get back in shape quicker than I thought and the team needed some immediate help. It was hard to change my mindset into focusing on what I could do to help the team win.
You suffered a heart attack during a practice in December 2012, how close were you to dying, and how do you feel a year later? I was pretty close to dying: I would probably not be alive if the right people and equipment had not been around. It was an experience that changed my life and it is a big blessing looking back at it. The best part is I feel great now.
You have helped raise money to provide defibrillators at recreation centers: how crucial is it for such devices to be available to young athletes? I think I am evidence that it is extremely important. I have heard many stories of people who have been saved and others who could have been saved. It happens more than you think, so it is good to make them available because you never know what can happen.
Your sister, brother and father were all college athletes as well. Do you credit at least some of your success to genetics, and who is the best athlete in the family? I absolutely credit my dad for his genes: he played basketball and was my coach growing up. My older brother played at Dixie State and we would play against each other all day every day, so I give him a ton of credit as well. It is a close call as to which of us is the best, but I would have to say my sister: she is a great volleyball player but could have succeeded at any sport she chose.
You have spent time at both small and power forwards, which position do you feel most comfortable at? I am most comfortable as a SF: I was short while growing up so I was able to develop a lot of guard skills before hitting my growth spurt. The hard part of being a PF is having to play defense against bigger guys who post me up.
Your team changed conferences over the summer from the WAC to the MWC: what was the hardest part of the switch, and how far do you think San Diego State can go in March? It has been a big jump from the WAC: you have to be ready to go every game…otherwise you will lose by 20 points. The Aztecs have a lot of tools and a good system that locks you down defensively. I think they can make a run, and I hope they succeed.
Earlier this month you were one of five D-1 players named to the Allstate NABC Good Works Team (which recognizes players for their commitment to community service). What did it mean to you to receive such an honor, and what do you hope to do in the future? It means a lot to me. Ever since last year I have tried to speak at a lot of places in the community and spread the word about defibrillators and encourage people to learn how to use them. I just hope to continue what I have been doing, and once basketball is over I will have time to spread the word as much as I can.