Offensive lineman Joe Berger turned to faith to decide his football future, and the father of four has decided it is time to spend more time with family.
Berger announced Friday that he is retiring after 13 NFL seasons, including the past seven with the Vikings.
"After a lot of careful thought and prayer I have decided to retire from football," Berger wrote in a statement to NFL.com's Tom Pelissero. "I have been fortunate to enjoy 13 seasons and have had the opportunity to play with so many good players and coaches. I was on some great teams before the Vikings, but it wasn't until I got to Minnesota that I really felt at home.
"For seven years I was able to play for a great organization and in front of the best fans," the statement continued. "U.S. Bank Stadium is an incredible place to play football. My family and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I was given. I will miss my teammates and the game but am looking forward to this next chapter. So many people have had a part in my career, and I hope [someday] I'll be able to personally thank each one of them. Thanks for the memories! SKOL Vikings!"
It has been quite the ride for the former walk-on lineman at Division II Michigan Tech where he earned a mechanical engineering degree and posted a 3.8 GPA.
Berger appeared in 145 regular-season games and made 84 starts, including 107 and 64, respectively, for the Vikings. He also started three of the four postseason games he played for Minnesota.
Originally a sixth-round pick by Carolina in 2005, Berger signed on with Miami. He played for the Dolphins, Cowboys and Dolphins again before joining Minnesota in 2011.
Berger transitioned from super sub to starter in 2015. That season, Berger started all 16 games at center, helping the Vikings go 11-5 and win the NFC North.
In 2017, Berger started all 16 regular-season games and helped Minnesota go 13-3 and win the NFC North for the second time in three seasons.
After opening the first 15 games at right guard, Berger kicked inside to center against the Bears in Week 17, showing the versatility that helped launch his career. Berger returned to right guard for both of the Vikings postseason games.
Berger was in his hometown of Newaygo, Michigan, on Friday but took time for Q&A with Vikings.com.
View the best images from Joe Berger's seven years with the Vikings.
Q: You cited your faith in praying about this decision. What was the whole process like?
A: Obviously, it's a huge decision, clearly one of the biggest ones I'll have to make. We spent a lot of time on it, and really it started two-three years ago. Each offseason, I think I've kind of brushed it over, talked about if this is right or not for our family, and have kind of decided that football was the right choice every other year. This year just felt different, and the year we had was so much fun. When you think about how you want your career to end, you know, we came up a game short, but the year itself was incredible, outside of maybe that last game, so to be able to walk away from the game on my own and have the memories that I have, I really felt like this is the time to do that. We're excited about the future.
Q: It's been quite a run, maybe even longer that you imagined?
A: No question. I still remember my rookie year, walking out with Geoff Hangartner and Evan Mathis, talking about what a long career is in our mind. The answers were five, six years, whatever, you know, but in my mind, it was to be able to experience a training camp in the NFL and then go get on with engineering, which is where I figured it would end up. Clearly, it lasted a few years longer than that, so it's been good.
Q: You walked on at a Division II school, and it turned into 145 NFL games. What do you think was the number one key into making that kind of a career?
A: I think the good people in my life that God put there. From the time I was a young kid, teaching me work ethic and the importance of doing a job completely and respecting the people above you, just those people [that created] a foundation for a kid. Then, coaches and teachers and the people in my life along the way that were put there to kind of guide me to help me grow as a person and as an athlete. I think this wouldn't have been possible without all of those people. They shaped me from my youth and then as a player. You try to thank everyone somehow, and there's just no way to do it. Everybody that I've crossed paths with over the years means so much to me, and without any one of those people, this wouldn't have happened.
Q: Was it tempting to go for one more ride, with the success of the Vikings and the new training facility, or was the memory of what you accomplished last season so strong?
A: No question, it was hard. I think my heart had made the decision when I walked out of the building [at the end of the season]. The reason that it's March and we're talking about it now is because of all of those thoughts in my mind. I think there's no reason the Vikings don't win it next year. That was part of the decision. 'Am I willing to be a fan and cheer them on and not be out there with them and be happy for them?' I am. I hope the Vikings win the big one and have a great season and I'll be the first one to congratulate everybody. I'm excited about the future the Vikings have. I'm happy to be part of the group that started that.
Q: I'm sure the young interior offensive linemen will be able to point to the influence you've had.
A: The same back to it, watching their youth and excitement for the game helped me on game days, too. I think it goes both ways, obviously as a team. It's why we were able to have the success that we did have.
Q: Your kids are probably pretty excited they won't say 'bye' to Dad next month.
A: Yeah, they're excited about that. It will be new for us, for sure. They're looking forward to it, and I think they're all looking forward to having me around a little more this spring.
Q: How's your woodshop? Are you starting any new projects?
A: Well, we're building a big garage, so I'm hoping with part of this extra time that I can help them build it and learn a little bit about construction. I helped my dad when I was younger. He built houses, so it would be fun to do that, help them build [the garage].
Q: Do you see yourself moving into the engineering field?
A: I do, yeah. I've kind of had my feelers out a little bit, as far as what area of engineering or how to use my degree now after 13 years. Is it going back and being an engineer, or is it somehow being part of a manufacturing company? It's just trying to understand where I want to be and fit into that. I want to be part of it somehow. I loved getting my degree, so I'm hoping I'll find a spot down the road of using engineering somehow.
Q: With four children (ages 11, 8, 5 and 1), I don't think you'll have much free time.
A: No, I think I might be busier, actually. I used to go out to Minnesota to work out so I could relax a little bit in the spring.
Q: What was it like to go from super sub to a starter in Minnesota?
A: Minnesota means so much to me. There was a point in my career before I got there where I was on the phone, talking with my agent about retiring at year six. That would have been less than half of my career. Minnesota gave me a home, and I appreciate every opportunity that I had there.
Q: Do you have a plan to attend a Vikings game or visit the new facility?
A: Yeah, part of last year was picking up an RV and planning a trip out west. We're hoping to end it in Minnesota for training camp and check out everybody and make sure they're working hard. Then, we'll get out to a game at some point.
Q: Have you always dreamed of doing the RV thing?
A: Kind of, without knowing if it's really our thing or not, but people have said that you can't see the West through the air. You've really got to just drive it. We're going to do the RV this summer and enjoy it and decide if we're RVers or not after that. We're looking forward to a big, three-week vacation as a family. Part of the joy of the RV is to not have it exactly planned out, but you want to have a place to park it at night, so we're trying to figure out that balance.
Q: Are there a couple of sights that you're most excited about seeing?
A: The Grand Canyon is the major destination. I've never seen it. We used to go on family trips as a kid pretty often, and the Grand Canyon and the Southwest is a place we were never really able to get to, so I'm looking forward to seeing that myself, and hopefully the kids are, too. I've been told that pictures don't do the Grand Canyon justice.
Berger closed by saying, "Thanks to the team, the organization, the fans. They've been great to me. I've loved playing in Minnesota. Two of my kids were born there, and Minnesota will forever have a place in my heart for sure."