Florida took a hit when Berlin left for the Miami helm
The original script was different, of course. The quarterback was a high school All-American and Gatorade National Player of the Year. He was an honor roll student. He had a beauty queen girlfriend. He would move on to college to play at the University of Florida for an ex-Heisman Trophy QB who could impart his wisdom and his Fun `N' Gun offense on the latest heir apparent.
From there, he would add more glorious chapters to this perfect tale.
It all seemed so logical for Brock Sterling Berlin, the 6-foot-1-inch wunderkind who came out of Shreveport's (La.) Evangel Christian Academy in 1999 as one of those can't-miss prospects. Hadn't the kid thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 36 touchdowns in his senior season? Hadn't he gone 45-0 as a starting quarterback and led his team to three state championships? And wasn't he going to the perfect place to hone his skills?
Of course. And that's what made it so difficult when Berlin wasn't given the job upon his arrival in Gainesville. In fact, he didn't even win the job.
So much for that perfect story.
By the end of his sophomore year, the petals had fallen off the rose. Instead of headlines, there were whispers. And questions.
Berlin finished out his sophomore year by starting for the Gators in their Orange Bowl victory over Maryland. But by then, he had all but made up his mind to start over somewhere else. Somewhere where he could regain his identity, regain his poise and confidence.
Fast-forward two years. Berlin is again a starting quarterback, if not a star. But now he has moved his act 200 miles south from Gainesville to Miami. He is a game and a half into his new role as the starting quarterback on a University of Miami team that may once again be the best squad in college football.
But in his first game in the Orange Bowl as a Hurricane starter, Berlin was staring at his past, attempting to beat a Florida team filled with former teammates and friends. By the third quarter, Florida had built a 33-10 lead that against almost anyone but Miami would have seemed insurmountable.
Berlin had thrown a pair of interceptions, and heard boos and catcalls from the Miami fans. The Florida fans in the stands were nodding their heads. "Same old Brock," they said.
And then it changed with the speed of a "wink in a young girl's eye" as Springsteen tells us in "Glory Days." He completed 18 of his last 21 passes, including 12 in a row. He threw four touchdown passes.
Final: Miami 38, Florida 33.
"That just shows what kind of heart Brock Berlin has," said Miami center Joel Rodriguez. "The whole comeback, it felt so surreal. The people were going nuts. It's like something you find in `Varsity Blues.' "
For Brock Berlin, who will bring his show to Alumni Stadium tomorrow night for another prime-time performance against Boston College, this is what it's all about. This is what makes all those hard times on the practice field worth it. He had to sit out the NCAA-mandated transfer year last season and absorbed the Miami system in a role of scout team quarterback while Ken Dorsey tried to guide the Hurricanes to a second consecutive national championship.
This year, he endured a training camp battle with Derrick Crudup, which took on some nasty racial overtones before Miami coach Larry Coker, in his usual calm manner, defused the situation with a simple, "the better player won the job."
Berlin has done the job with Miami. Three games, three wins. Although he is not on the top of any Heisman lists, Miami is a national championship contender, and Berlin has enough high-profile games remaining that a few "SportsCenter" moments can put him there.
Berlin says his days at Florida taught him about adversity. As for reported clashes with Spurrier, Berlin took the high road.
"I saw Coach Spurrier [now with the Washington Redskins] when he came down here in the spring. We had a nice talk. I have nothing but good things to say about him. He taught me a lot."
Berlin calls himself a 'Cane now. The past is the past. No hard feelings. It was just a matter of opportunity. At Florida, he was playing behind Rex Grossman, and the chances weren't there. So he decided to move on.
This year, the BCS title game will be in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It is hard not to see the symmetry in that in terms of Berlin's possible role.
He grew up in Louisiana. He played his first game for Miami last month in Shreveport against Louisiana Tech. Wouldn't the script writers of this story love a twist that had Berlin playing the final game of the season back in Louisiana with a national championship at stake?
Berlin knows the talent exists. "That's one of the first things I noticed," said Berlin earlier this summer, standing on the Miami practice field in Coral Gables. "There is so much talent here."
Now, he is BMOC again. It is all in front of him. Things are going well. His girlfriend, Brittney Rogers, is Miss Louisiana. His teammates are saying that he is indeed the man. At least for the moment.
Berlin says the right things. Take BC, for example. No Miami team has lost to Boston College since Doug Flutie beat the 'Canes in 1984. Yet, the last three games at the Heights have been decided by an average of 5 points.
"We know what to expect and we will be ready to play," said Berlin earlier this week when he went on an ESPN chat room. "I know everybody is fired up for this game."
Just the proper amount of respect, with the proper amount of confidence, without sounding too cocky.
That is Brock Berlin's way. And now is his time.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.