Austin Berk
Austin Berk

FORT COLLINS — Austin Berk wants to play football again, but even the Grand Junction product admits his body isn't quite ready to let him do it right now. But when it is capable, it will no longer be in a Colorado State uniform.

The sophomore, who graduated early and enrolled at CSU and played as a true freshman defensive end, has decided to leave Fort Collins and pursue other options.

"I just need some time to let my body heal so that I'm not in pain every day," Berk said Monday. "I'm definitely not going to play next season. I'm going to sit out for a year, use my redshirt year and see where life takes me after that."

Berk was limited to just five games last season with a hip injury, one that caused him to miss the final five games of the schedule and had him held out of contact this spring. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he played in the Rams' season-opener against Colorado and collected his first tackle. He finished the season with five total.

He's had surgery on both hips (an issue that started back in high school), but it became so painful for him that CSU coaches hinted after the end of spring he may be looking at a medical hardship and his career could be finished.

Berk said doctors told him that at one point, but after continuing to rehab, he said he's been given reason for optimism. He added it was his decision to try to find another school, saying Fort Collins wasn't where he belonged.

"It has nothing to do with anybody in the program," Berk said. "It just wasn't the right fit for me. Everything about it. I love Fort Collins; it's a wonderful place, it's just not a place for me to live in and spend my day-to-day life. I just don't feel like it's a place for me to be."

Berk said his hips still hurt him, but the issue is getting better each day. He said the root problem was he never really gave himself time to heal. After having his first surgery in high school, he was back on the baseball field shortly thereafter.

Berk said he's talked to other programs, but didn't want to say where. He's not sure if he'll enroll at another school next January or take the entire year off to rehab and heal.

"I'm cleared to play and I have no tears in there right now," he said. "It's more about taking the time to just come back and get into the swing of things, start running more, taking a break and feeling better. I've been slowly getting more activity."

Contact Sports Editor Mike Brohard at 970-635-3633 or mbrohard@reporter-herald.com