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Utah football: Tony Bergstrom travels far with Utes
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tony Bergstrom's goal when he joined Utah's football team was to be good enough to be carried along as a member of the team's travel squad.

Four years later, the senior is carrying the Utes in many ways.

Bergstrom, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive tackle, is one of the leaders of the Utes on the field and off.

On the field, the former Skyline High School standout has developed into an All-America candidate. Off the field, he is one of the chattiest guys on the team, whose easy-going attitude makes him a natural leader, even if it belies the toughness he shows on the field.

"Everyone always talks about the offensive line together, but we know he is the guy," fellow offensive lineman John Cullen said.

While those who watched his development from high school into college probably aren't surprised at his success, Bergstrom still is amazed at how he has developed as a football player.

"I never thought I'd play in college," he said. "I didn't even have a desire to until teams started looking at me and then I started looking at them and thought it would be a good thing. Then when I got up here, it was an eye-opening experience because you realize how terrible you are as a player. I thought I'd be doing good if I could travel."

Bergstrom did more than just occupy a bench at away games. As a freshman he played in 10 games, with a start against UNLV. His sophomore year he was moved to right tackle, where he led the line in total plays (816) and solidified himself as a player to watch in the Mountain West Conference.

In 2010 he earned All-MWC honors, and this season he is being touted as an All-America candidate.

His development may have surprised him, but not coach Kyle Whittingham.

"At the time, all he lacked was size," Whittingham said. "He was about 235, 240 when he went on his mission and came back at 290 so he had the mass and he had the great feet, athleticism and mentality to go far."

No longer out to prove to himself he can play at Utah's level, Bergstrom now is focused on doing well for his teammates. He knows the competition in the Pac-12 will be tougher than what he and his teammates faced in the MWC.

He also knows the offensive line has been called upon to carry the team in several ways.

The Utes are going with more of a run game this season, and offensive coordinator Norm Chow has made it clear the Utes must not let quarterback Jordan Wynn get hurt.

All the added responsibilities are fine with Bergstrom, who is looking forward to not only meeting his coaches' demands but the increased competition in the Pac-12.

"We know we need to be more physical in the run game since we're moving out of the spread," he said. "We have to get the run going first to set up the pass, but we'll be ready. The mentality of the offensive line this year is get more nasty out there, get down and dirty."

Bergstrom's ability to hold his own isn't in doubt. But the offensive line also features a new center in Tevita Stevens, a new starter at right guard in Jeremiah Tofaeono and a seemingly jinxed left guard spot where candidates including Sam Brenner, Isaac Asiata and Latu Heimuli have all been hurt.

While others might question the offensive line's experience and abilities, Bergstrom is confident he and his teammates can get the job done. After all, he too was an unproven player once.

"All the guys have been grinding it out in camp," he said. "We know that we have to pick up the run game, and that is going to be huge, but we have the depth we need."

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Utes' offensive line

Left tackle

John Cullen (6-5, 300 Sr.)

Kapua Sai (6-4, 312, So.)

Left guard

Vyncent Jones (6-3, 300, So.)

Siaosi Aiono (6-3, 304, Fr.)

Center

Tevita Stevens (6-3, 300, Jr.)

Vyncent Jones (6-3, 300, So.)

Right guard

Jeremiah Tofaeono (6-2, 317, So.)

Siaosi Aiono (6-3, 304, Fr.)

Right tackle

Tony Bergstrom (6-6, 315, Sr.)

Kapua Sai (6-4, 312, So.)

Utes • OT surpasses modest goals to become a leader on and off the field.
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