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'That's Junior': Parents, eight siblings not surprised by Montana Grizzly receiver's success

Bergen family
Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-06 01:03:50-04

BILLINGS — The legend of Junior Bergen grew on the Daylis Stadium turf, but it started much earlier, in a house with nine children where competition - and specifically, football - was always the talk of the table.

"We always had something to talk about, for everyone to engage in," said Simon Bergen, Junior's dad.

For Simon, football wasn’t a choice growing up in Texas - it’s a right.

"Football, that was it," he said with a smile.

Simon Bergen and Junior
Junior Bergen learned to love football at a young age, partly thanks to dad Simon, a former Rocky Mountain College and Billings Outlaws player.

Simon ended up playing for Rocky Mountain College for a couple seasons and made Billings his home, a home that would grow seemingly every year.

"I’ll go from oldest down," Simon said. "We had Dequincy..."

In all, Simon listed nine children - not all biological, but all consider each other siblings. Junior is sixth in the list.

"My family means everything to me," Junior said. "They've all sacrificed so much to get me into the position I'm in."

He knew early on he would go into the family business.

"I remember in like kindergarten, I threw a fit because my mom wouldn’t let me wear cleats to school on the first day," he said. "My Grandpa calls me Cleatus because of that."

"He'd wear cleats to school if we let him," Simon said. "He'd wear cleats to church if we let him."

Junior is closest in age to older brother Oran, separated by about a year. But you could never actually separate them.

Junior and Oran
Junior Bergen (left) is closest in age to older brother Oran, separated by about a year.

"They probably went at it the most in the house," Simon said. "Oran was always a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, so he always had the edge on Junior for a long time. And honestly, I think that really drove Junior more than anything."

"When we were younger, Oran would get me quite a bit," Junior admitted. "But as I started getting older, none of them could hang out."

Few in the state can. His incredible high school career earned him a shot with the Montana Grizzlies, and he’s made the most of every opportunity. Switch to running back as a true freshman? No problem - to tune the of nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns. Go back to receiver? Got it - he's caught four more touchdowns already in 2022. Return punts? Why not.

"He had never fielded punts in his life," Simon said. "That summer, he said, ‘Dad, I’m gonna field punts.'"

KPAX 092422 GRIZ FB PORTLAND STATE27.jpg
University of Montana sophomore Junior Bergen (5) avoids a tackle during the Big Sky Conference game against Portland State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday, September 24, 2022.

He’s excelled at them all. It’s exactly what his family expected.

"Nothing he’s done really surprises me because that’s Junior," said Simon. "He finds himself in a position to where somebody gives him a chance, and he makes the most of it."

It’s easy when you’ve got this much support.

"I talk to them every day," Junior said of his family. "My dad multiple times a day, my mom multiple times a day, and then my brothers once a day.

"They love me no matter what, and they're always positive and encouraging. I couldn't ask for a better family."

The feeling is mutual.

Junior Bergen
Junior Bergen starred for the Billings Senior Broncs for three seasons before earning a scholarship to the University of Montana.