Clyde’s Chase Berger is an inspiration on and off the field
CLYDE — The number on the front of his jersey means more than you would think.
Chase Berger, a 5-foot-11, 177-pound senior at Clyde, wears No. 4, but taking a deeper look inside the meaning reveals a tough past, but an ending that Berger wants family, friends, and fans to know about.
Berger wears the number because it represents the age he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma — soft tissue cancer near the right eye.
“We went to the Cleveland Clinic often,” Berger said. “It was a real struggle in my life.”
Berger found an outlet in football early in his life.
“Playing football is something I have used to show people that no matter what you go through, you can always be something in life,” Berger said. “I have used football as something to let everything out that I have been through in life.”
Despite the initial diagnosis coming 14 years ago, a lot of the memories and moments come vividly to Berger.
“I remember a lot of it,” Berger said. “I stayed in the hospital for two months the one time. I stayed in Cleveland at the Ronald McDonald house a lot — for like a year. We lived up there because the travel was so far from Clyde to Cleveland all the time.”
Even while playing a contact sport that has collisions on every play, Berger has done it somewhat at a disadvantage, but he does not let it bring him down.
“My right eye is half sown shut,” Berger said. “It affects my vision. I can not see out of my right eye at all. It is something I have adapted to and got used to. I do not let it affect me.”
Berger said he has to not think about his past when he steps on the football field.
“I do not really think about it,” Berger said. “It comes natural to me. I got the eye sown shut when I was about eight years old. I might not have even been that old. I have adapted to it.”
Berger has grown up and moved on from the cancer treatments and it has made him a stronger young man with a bright future that includes helping others.
“It has shown me that no matter what you go through, you can achieve anything,” Berger said. “I would have never thought I could step out on the field with my great friends and go out there and be successful.”
Clyde quarterback Ryan Lozier are among those who have been friends with Berger for more than a decade and the two are apart of the senior class that is playing in Saturday’s state semifinals.
“Chase is a good kid and a hard worker,” Lozier said. “We do side jobs together to earn some extra money. He has been through a lot. I remember back in peewee football when we were playing that he was going through a lot. To beat it is special.”
Berger said the senior class of friends are special, even when he left Clyde and attended Seneca East High School for a while before returning home.
“I have always had a great group around me,” Berger said. “This senior group just took me in. We are so tight and close. No matter what I would go through, they were always there for me and they always welcomed me.”
Lozier said Berger might not be a vocal leader, but his presence is intensified when others watch on and take Berger as an example.
“You do not hear him much, but when we go through drills, he goes hard,” Lozier said. “He is a leader more by example than he is vocally. He does it by his actions.”
Clyde coach Ryan Carter gets to watch Berger every day in practice and in game-time situations each week.
“Chase is a great kid that has worked very hard to get where he is and he has fought through a bunch of adversity in his life,” Carter said. “Chase is a great kid on and off the field. He plays with a bunch of energy on the field and has a great motor that never stops. He plays extremely hard.”
On the field, Berger has 18 rushes for 96 yards and three touchdowns this season. Against Norwalk, he scored the first touchdown of the game on a nine-yard run. He has returned five kickoffs for 59 yards.
“Stepping on the field makes me remember what I have been through,” Berger said. “I let it all out on the field. If I have been through something so bad, I just want to show others that no matter what, you can always be great at something you like to do and enjoy doing.”
Chase has also gotten the opportunity to play football with his younger brother Caden this season. Caden had a big interception for the Fliers in a 17-10 win over Ottawa-Glandorf in last week’s regional final.
“To get out on the field with my brother has been one of my biggest dreams,” Caden said. “That is something we have always wanted. To continue to do it in the state final four is one of the coolest feelings I have had in a while.”
Chase will have an opportunity to give back soon. On Jan. 18, Berger will host a benefit for Isaac Advey, who has battled cancer four times at just the age of 12.
“I feel like this community of Clyde and surrounding areas have given so much to me and my family,” Berger said. “I want to give back to them and show I appreciate everything they have done for me.”
For now, Berger and the Fliers (9-4) face their biggest challenge of the season at Marysville High School Saturday against the defending Division IV state champions, Cincinnati Wyoming (13-0). But this challenge is nothing compared to what Berger has seen and done already in life.
“I want people to know that if you believe in God, believe in yourself, and pray, you can get through anything,” Berger said. “You have to believe.”