Braxton Berrios has made his family proud “every day of his 22 years on earth,” his father Rico said Thursday after arriving in Miami from Dallas for his son’s football game Saturday against Virginia Tech.
“He has always closed every chapter in his life the right way,” Rico Berrios said.
The Miami Hurricanes’ impassioned No. 1 receiver, the nation’s sixth-ranked punt returner and one of the finest football-playing scholars in America, is closing this chapter right, too.
“God-given talent, great work ethic, great engine, great heart,” Braxton’s dad said.
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And a great mind.
This week, Berrios — a senior in the slot who leads ninth-ranked UM (7-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 32 catches for 415 yards and six touchdowns, the ACC with a 16.3-yard punt-return average, and his fellow student-athletes with a 3.96 grade-point average — was named a Campbell Trophy finalist for the prestigious honor known as college football’s Academic Heisman.
Berrios, from Raleigh, North Carolina, is the Hurricanes’ 5-9, 186-pound all-around gift that just keeps giving.
“He has been awesome,” UM coach Mark Richt said of Berrios, who became the first Hurricane since Reggie Wayne in 2000 to record a touchdown catch in each of his first four games this season. “Pretty spectacular, actually. A lot of college kids are missing out what it’s like to be that senior leader. I’m really happy for him.”
Last year, Berrios played on the outside and didn’t get as many opportunities because UM’s two talented tight ends — former star David Njoku and current senior Chris Herndon — were often on the field together, as were former Cane Stacy Coley and Ahmmon Richards, who has been slowed by injuries much of this season.
Receivers coach Ron Dugans told WQAM heading into the Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) matchup that Berrios has been “wonderful” and had the mindset this season “that he was not going to be denied.”
“The kid, he’s a student of the game. He watches film on his own. He understands that timing and spacing equals completions. He knows how to fit up on the guy. He knows how to take the right angles. He wants the ball in clutch situations.
“To have a kid like that who tries to help guys get lined up and be a coach on the field, he has everything you want in a wide receiver. And he’s not afraid to block.”
Berrios is scheduled to graduate in December with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship. “It’s incredible,” he said of being named a Campbell finalist. “I’ve known for a few days and had to keep it hush-hush.”
The Campbell Trophy is awarded by the National Football Foundation and displayed inside the New York Athletic Club. If he wins the Campbell, Berrios would become the second UM player in school history to achieve the honor. Offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez, part of UM’s last national championship team in 2001, won the award when it was called the Draddy Trophy.
Berrios already has earned $18,000 toward postgraduate studies (no matter how far in the future) by being one of 13 semifinalists. The scholarship would be increased to $25,000 should he win the 25-pound bronze trophy.
Berrios’ dad, a former Miami Southridge High All-State soccer player who kicked for the Southridge football team in 1985, lives in Dallas and is the vice president of sales for a furniture manufacturer. Berrios’ mom, Lee Smothers, lives in Raleigh with her husband and works for a pharmaceutical research company.
Berrios, who has four brothers ages 24, 7, 6 and 3, sidestepped the question of what he wants to do after football.
“We’ll find out,” he said. “I’m not really worried about that at all. Doors open when they need to. Right now, I’m not thinking about after football.”
That’s because Berrios for now has a singular goal after UM, his dad said: to play in the NFL.
He was asked this week how gratifying his football season has been.
“To me, it’s a long time coming, really finding that groove and carving myself that part in the offense,” said Berrios, who came to UM in January 2014 as a four-star Under Armour All-American and had to recuperate from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that he sustained the previous month in the Under Armour All-American game. “So, for all these years and the culmination of work, to finally be producing is incredible.”
Rico Berrios said his son has only received a grade lower than an A once at UM, a B+ last year as part of a group project in finance.
“He wasn’t happy about it,” Dad said.
“I’ll be on campus, and every once in a while we’ll see a professor and they’ll brag what a great student he is.
“I’ll be humbled. He’ll be embarrassed. But I truly believe he’s getting what he deserves.”