Of all the memorable moments former Fresno State star and NFL receiver Bernard Berrian experienced, it was those on the practice field with his fellow Bulldogs he may cherish most.
Friendships off the field sometimes gave way to intense, less-than-friendly competition on it during heated receiver-versus-cornerback drills that ended with someone getting the last word through creative trash talking.
Through it all, there was a confidence and swagger that developed while trying to get the best of teammates.
There was a mentality like, ‘I’m way better than you and I’m going to show it.’ No one ever backed down. We always let the other person know it.
Former Fresno State star Bernard Berrian
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“Games were fun, but the best part for me always was practice,” Berrian, an Atwater High School graduate, said ahead of his induction Thursday into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame. “It was fierce. We practiced almost like we didn’t like each other, like we were going to fight.
“There was a mentality like, ‘I’m way better than you and I’m going to show it.’ No one ever backed down. We always let the other person know it, too. That’s how we got better.”
Berrian harnessed that drive, talent and bravado to forge an eight-year NFL career that included starting for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI against Indianapolis. He also played for the Minnesota Vikings.
Others in this year’s star-studded induction class include:
▪ Former Fresno State running back Ron Rivers, who owned the school’s career rushing record from 1993 until 2012.
▪ Ex-Bulldogs softball star Nina Lindenberg, who hit the College World Series home run that propelled Fresno State to the 1998 national championship.
▪ Golfer Steve Menchinella, considered the “Godfather” of golf in Northern California.
▪ The 1968 and 1969 Fresno City College football teams that won state championships.
“Just very appreciative and very thankful of the honor,” Berrian said of his place in the group.
Berrian finished with 288 receptions for 4,122 yards and 24 touchdowns as a pro after making 199 catches for 2,849 yards and 25 TDs – mostly in three seasons – at Fresno State from 1999-2003.
Now 34, having last played in the NFL in 2011, he speaks humbly. But as a player, brash talk was as much a part of his game as his blazing speed.
288 career catches by Bernard Berrian over eight seasons in the NFL
Always confident in his abilities, Berrian made sure to also always back up his talk. But he also knew when his actions spoke loudly enough.
Berrian’s trash talking became such a constant element, when he stayed silent after a play it probably meant he had just done something spectacular.
He recalled running one drill at Fresno State while going against teammate Kendall Edwards.
“Kendall was faster than I was in college,” Berrian admits.
The two raced after a deep ball, matching each other stride for stride.
Berrian looked back for the ball. Then, so did Edwards, who was momentarily confused why he couldn’t spot it.
Berrian is tied for third on Fresno State’s career touchdown receptions list with 25. His 199 catches rank fifth.
Turns out Berrian made the deep catch before Edwards noticed.
Afterward, Berrian just showed his good friend and teammate the ball, then smiled.
“My time at Fresno State was real special,” said Berrian, a third-round choice, No. 78 overall, by Chicago in the 2004 draft. “It’s what got me to where I got to go. We had a lot of wins, a lot of heartbreaks. We felt every emotion. We had some really high highs, and we had some big crashes.
“But it was fun. The camaraderie I had with some of the fellas, it all helped me become who I am and build that confidence.”
Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame
Enshrinement Awards Dinner: Thursday at the Fresno Convention Center-Valdez Hall
Event schedule: Social hour, 5:30 p.m.; dinner, 7 p.m.
Induction class: Bernard Berrian, football; Steve Menchinella, golf; Nina Lindenberg, softball; Ron Rivers, football; 1968 and 1969 Fresno City College state-champion football teams