With NFL, AAF experience, ‘Berco’ returns to ASU as graduate assistant
TEMPE, Ariz. — Mike Bercovici remembers what he called a “fan webpage” during his ASU career in which the creator showed a dream future version of the Sun Devils staff.
Head football coach: Taylor Kelly, who was on the ASU team from 2010-14.
Athletic director: Bercovici, who was on the team for five years and was the full-time starting quarterback as a redshirt senior in 2015.
“I kind of sat there and I was like, ‘Nah, I want to be the coach, TK can be the AD,” Bercovici recalled with a laugh. “At that moment I think I was like, you know what, I couldn’t even think of a greater feat in my life than to eventually one day be the head coach of Arizona State.”
He’s not there yet, but “Berco” can officially say he is a coach at ASU. The former quarterback was named an offensive graduate assistant Thursday.
The program brings back a player who was part of perhaps the most iconic ASU football moment in recent memory, the “Jael Mary” from 2014; a quarterback who played on two NFL practice squads; a man who is part of what might be the lasting image of the American Alliance of Football, when Bercovici was sacked so hard his helmet flew off.
“That hit was something that I’ll never forget as long as I live,” he said. “I hope our guys don’t take hits like that. That will be my job, make sure that none of their helmets fly off.”
With those three professional teams and five years at ASU, Bercovici thinks his experience will serve well on and off the field.
“I’ve always thought that the coaches that I have the fondest memories of are ones that taught me stuff beyond the game, beyond leading the team out of the huddle,” he said.
More than anything (except maybe the Jael Mary), Bercovici is remembered at ASU as the quarterback who was willing to remain on the team after losing a quarterback battle.
He now re-enters the program at a time in which several players will be competing for the starting QB spot, and all but one will have to decide whether to stay or transfer after losing the battle.
ASU is bringing in three true freshmen quarterbacks who aim to compete with redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole and redshirt freshman Beaux Barrington for the starting spot.
If there’s a person who can stress the importance of standing by a program, it’s Bercovici.
“I’m a much better person today because of those competitions, because the adversity and the blood sweat and tears, it does something to you that you can’t really teach in a lot of other sports or real life,” he said. “I feel like obviously because I wore the same helmet that these guys are going to wear, they’re going to understand and hopefully appreciate what I have to offer.”
Proclaiming loyalty to ASU is something he did again with the announcement Thursday. Bercovici said he turned down an entry-level NFL coaching opportunity to rejoin the Sun Devils.
“It solidified that college football is what my passion is and where I want to be,” he said. “The pro game is very different, especially being a younger guy in the industry, where you don’t have the ability to shape people’s lives as much in their futures.”
Rob Likens, ASU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, reached out to Bercovici over Twitter while he was at the San Diego Fleet training camp for the AAF season and gauged his interest in returning to Tempe. There were no former QBs on the staff at that time, Bercovici said, which was knowledge and experience he could provide.
While Bercovici was trying to make it in the NFL — first on the then-San Diego Chargers practice squad and later that of the Arizona Cardinals, he said family told him he would make a good coach. He pushed against that idea until he spoke with ASU head coach Herm Edwards.
“It took getting on the phone with Coach Edwards in January to know that this industry is filled with people who have the ability to change people’s lives, and that’s just what I want to be part of,” Bercovici said.