Bryan Bero never did look like a quarterback. When he reported to the University of Utah in 1984 he appeared in the guise of a muscle-bound linebacker. As a freshman out of Bishop Montgomery High in Southern California, he could already bench press 370 pounds.
By the time he was a sophomore he was up to a 400-pound press. A lifelong quarterback, Bero lifted weights as a hobby, but soon it began to bind up his range of motion. While most quarterbacks are supposed to be tall and lanky, and prefer taking a nap to lifting weights, Bero hung out in the weight room, talking with the down linemen.Eventually the coaches told him not to lift anymore weights. He was getting too strong. "A guy like that could put me out of business," says Strength Coach Sam Varner. "You just point him in the direction of the weights and he does the rest."
Now Bero's back in the weight room. After a career as a quarterback, Bero has finally come home to a position that fits his body - fullback.
There aren't many 6-0, 230-pound quarterbacks around, anyway.
When Bero first appeared at Utah he had been recruited by Chuck Stobart for the Utes' option offense. Stocky, fairly short, and muscular, he was considered a strong candidate to fill the shoes of Mark Stevens.
After an uneventful freshman year, he was tabbed as the Utes' starting quarterback against Boise State to open the 1985 season. Bero had an undistinguished outing, going 11-21 with one interception and 95 passing yards. Utah only gained 211 yards total offense. The Utes came back to win the game, but with the exception of a rare appearance on an option play, Bero's quarterbacking days were over. Larry Egger took over the job and went on to become Utah's alltime leading passer.
And Bero was left to find a position. "It was hard at first," said Bero. "I was a quarterback all through grade school and high school. So I never saw myself being anything but a quarterback."
After dropping out of the quarterback race, Bero wasn't heard from much. He ended up throwing only six more passes the rest of the year. He was inserted into the lineup a handful of times as a fullback, but never returned to starting duty.
In 1986 he began his official move to fullback, carrying 49 times for 184 yards. It was a fair total, but not enough to draw much attention. "Bryan's switch to fullback was a hard move," said Ute running backs Coach Wayne McQuivey. "Before (when he was a quarterback) it was all mental and finesse. Now, at times, there is no finesse. He had to make that adjustment from a mental to a physical game."
Last year a knee injury in spring drills forced him to redshirt.
Bero has apparently adjusted fully to his position by now. There is no more trying to out-finesse the charging lineman he's supposed to block. He can eat what he wants and lift to his heart's content. His press of 465 pounds is second-best on the team. McQuivey calls him the most physical running back on the club. During one two-a-day scrimmage Bero ran straight over the top of a defensive player who got in front of him. "I really like the physical part of the game," he said.
He admits it has taken him three years to make the transition. "I was a quarterback. I would work on the drop, I changed my throwing motion . . . I was stocky and I wasn't smooth. Fullback was more natural. You get the ball and you run. I'm built more for a fullback."
He will likely see more playing time than he did in '86. With the other fullback, Martel Black, no longer on the team and Molonai Hola moved to linebacker, Bero will handle most plays that require a fullback.
"At fullback, you mentally have to go into another state," said Bero. "You have to say, hey, whoever comes after me, I've got to get the job done. I used to scramble and try to get out of the way. Now it's a collision sport. Football is not a contact sport, it's a collision sport."
And collision is something he's becoming rather good at.