UTAH SENIOR RIGHT TACKLE TONY BERGSTROM HAS A BEEF WITH THE SCHOOL'S SPORTS information department. He feels his bio, which lists "genetic research" among his interests, doesn't convey sufficient menace for a 6' 6", 315-pound lineman. "They paint me like I'm some super nerd," says Bergstrom, who ditched biology for chemical engineering three years ago. "I'd prefer it if it said, 'He enjoys hunting—with his bare hands.'"
That he actually enjoys wakeboarding and hanging out with his wife, Jessica, and their nine-month-old daughter, Olivia, is beside the point. For Bergstrom and his mates on Utah's offensive line, intimidation is as much a part of their job as executing with skill and chemistry, which they did last season when they allowed less than a sack per game. Yet even without tough-guy hobbies Bergstrom is about as perfect a lineman as can be, according to new O-line coach Tim Davis.
"I'm not trying to be mushy, but he's the kid I'd want my daughter to marry, if he wasn't married already," says Davis. "He does everything right on and off the field. As a lineman he pays great attention to detail, and he understands the whole picture: the protection, the run game, where the ball hits—he has all that."
Bergstrom has had plenty of time to nail the nuances of line play. As soon as he joined a youth football team in Salt Lake City at age eight, his gridiron destiny was sealed. "Utah [youth league] is kind of weird: If you weigh a certain amount, they put a big X on your helmet and confine you to the offensive or defensive line," he says. "I remember 70 pounds was the weight limit, and I was over that by [age] five."
After graduating from Salt Lake City's Skyline High, where he was an all-state lineman in 2004, Bergstrom spent two years on an LDS church mission in Sacramento before joining the Utes. One benefit of his late arrival: As the backup left tackle his freshman year he faced top defensive end Paul Kruger every day in practice. Aside from keeping Bergstrom sharp, Kruger, who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens, introduced him to his sister Jessica, who is now Mrs. Bergstrom. Two other Kruger brothers, Dave and Joe, both defensive linemen, have since joined the Utes. "It's like having a whole bunch of brothers [here] now," says Bergstrom. "We all hang out and have a good time."
Bergstrom is also close with his two fellow returning O-linemen, 6' 5", 295-pound senior left tackle John Cullen, whose flowing locks and "terrible tattoos" are favorite targets of Bergstrom's gently barbed commentary, and Tevita Stevens, a 6' 1", 298-pound junior who is so in tune with Bergstrom that "we finish each other's sentences," says Bergstrom. He expects the camaraderie to continue when two new starters join the trio: 6' 3", 300-pound junior Sam Brenner will likely take over at left guard while Stevens will move from right guard to center and be replaced by 6' 4", 312-pound sophomore Percy Taumoelau.
Protecting junior quarterback Jordan Wynn, who missed three games with injuries last season, is a particularly big priority this year. "The Pac-12 is a whole other level that we have to step up to," says Bergstrom. "The Mountain West was great, but there were always a few games every year that were the big ones that you really had to get excited for. Now every week is that week. I can't wait for it to start." Let the hunt begin.