MISSOULA — Last year, Junior Bergen came up big for the Montana Grizzlies after making the switch from wide receiver to running back as a true freshman. Now back at his natural position, Bergen is ready to build off of his breakout campaign.
Coming out of Billings Senior High School, Bergen flipped his commitment to the Grizzlies from Montana State, and joined UM last year as a receiver.
But just a couple of weeks before the opener against Washington, Bergen was moved to running back after injury depleted that position group.
"It was kind of shocking at first because I was pretty small and I didn't really think about it and then when he told me about it," Bergen said. "I was like, 'Alright I'll put my best foot forward and try my best and see how that goes.'"
From there, it was a learning curve at every turn.
"I was learning every day," Bergen said. "I remember the Washington game, the play that I ran I learned it five minutes before I went in and ran it so I learned every day and I was thankful for my coaches and my teammates for that."
Even then, Bergen's freshman year was huge for the Griz as he finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 498 yards and four scores in his new position. He also caught 21 passes for 230 yards and another score.
"It was a lot of fun," Bergen said. "I have great teammates and coaches who made me feel comfortable really early and took me in and taught me everything and we made progress throughout the year."
It was the confidence his teammates instilled in him that Bergen credits in helping him make the switch. Bergen said former Griz quarterback Cam Humphrey and receivers Samuel Akem and Gabe Sulser, among others, often picked him up to give him confidence.
"It was big, I think confidence is one of the biggest things," Bergen said. "If you don't have confidence, you're not going to have much success just because you don't believe in yourself, so those guys believing in me helped me believe in myself and our coaches also help me believe in myself as well."
Bergen began making the switch back to receiver toward the end of last season, including a 74-yard touchdown on the second play of the game against the Bobcats.
So this offseason was all about prep as he enters fall camp as the team's likely starter in the slot.
"Just getting my body healthy. Just get ready, get fast. Get stronger," Bergen said. "Catch a lot of balls. I didn't catch as many balls last year as I would this year so I knew I had to catch quite a few balls and just get my hands ready and stuff like that."
After proving he could help the team in more ways than one as a freshman, he'll look to do more of the same in year two as a sophomore.
"That's what I came to do, just help my teammates out," Bergen said. "We're trying to win games and I'll do whatever I have to do to help my teammates win."