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Central's Mike Berg inducted into national hall of fame

Recently, Mike Berg had taken his mother to a local restaurant for breakfast. While they were sitting at their table, a former Grand Forks Central High School football player came over to visit.

Recently, Mike Berg had taken his mother to a local restaurant for breakfast. While they were sitting at their table, a former Grand Forks Central High School football player came over to visit.

"He's in his 40s now, just got married a few years ago and he introduced me to his young daughter,'' said Berg, who coached Central football for 28 years. "Something like that, more than the wins and losses, is meaningful to me.

"It's those kinds of things that are special -- talking to former players, getting an e-mail from a kid who is excited after he just bought an auto repair shop and mentioned that the work ethic he learned with our program is so important. Most of the high school kids never play football after they graduate; it has to be about more than wins and losses.''

Berg had more than his share of wins during his coaching career. And his success was recognized Tuesday in Minneapolis, when he was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Berg spent 35 seasons as a football coach, the final 28 at Central. He retired from coaching after the 2006 season with a 141-132 record at Central.

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Hall nominations are made by state coaches association board members, Berg said. He first learned of his selection into the hall early this year.

"I was shocked, surprised,'' Berg said. "It's a wonderful honor. But it's something that had never entered my mind. Ever. There was no reason to even consider such a thing. So I was quite pleasantly surprised.

"Getting into our state coaches' hall of fame a few years ago was a surprise to me. This was even more of a surprise. It's hard to come up with the words to describe what an honor it is.''

Leading by example

Berg said he believes the selection is based on more than wins and state championships. He's been active in the state coaches' association, and has been a chairman for the North Dakota Shrine Bowl for 20 years.

Likewise, his coaching philosophy has always been about more than wins and state championships.

"What makes this special is that, hopefully, this comes about because of more than winning and losing,'' Berg said. "We as coaches at Central never stressed winning; we pushed working hard and preparing. We looked at it as an education process, of developing people into good young men.

"As a player and a coach, you want to win. But really, who remembers scores of all the games you've been involved in. My memories are never about a scoreboard.''

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Reaching the pinnacle

Berg arrived at Central prior to the 1979 season. He took over a program that had been struggling. His Central teams went on to make 15 state playoff appearances and play in three state championship games. Central lost the title games in 1996 and 2004, then brought the school its first state championship in more than 50 years when it beat Fargo South 39-29 in the 2005 state final.

Reaching the 1996 state championship game, "I'm not going to lie and say that wasn't satisfying,'' said Berg, who was a three-time selection as Class AAA state coach of the year. "Losing isn't fun for anybody. You don't discount the winning. But I don't think winning and losing should be your top priority in high school sports.

"You work awfully hard for that (state championship). The kids worked hard. The coaches worked their tails off. But we went through a number of seasons where we didn't have great seasons, but we felt really good about things because we saw how hard those kids worked and got everything out of their abilities.''

This is the second time Berg has been recognized nationally. In 2007, he was selected the NFL high school coach of the year after being nominated by his former player, NFL quarterback Brooks Bollinger.

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