(Editor's note: Montana State University athletics release)
BOZEMAN -- Months ago, Bryce Sterk was concluding his senior season for the Montana State football team, guiding the Bobcats to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Sterk, a Lynden, Wash. native, finished his senior season with 65 tackles, 20 for loss, and 15 sacks, the latter ranking No. 6 in the FCS and second in the Big Sky Conference. MSU's 2019 defensive team MVP, Sterk was named second-team all-American and competed in the East-West Shrine Game.
Sterk recently conducted his Pro Day at Landow Performance in the Denver Area, doing so alongside 30-plus other athletes, including fellow MSU all-American Brayden Konkol of Belgrade. Sterk's most impressive marks came in the 40-yard dash (4.69 seconds), vertical jump (34.5 inches) and L drill (7.07 seconds). All three would have ranked in the top three of his position group at the NFL combine.
Montana State football sports information director Bill Lamberty caught up with Sterk following the workout, with their conversation in the Q&A below.
How did your training time in Denver go?
“At the end we had to make some changes (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), but it didn’t really affect us. Our programs got (altered), then we scrambled to figure out what we could possibly do. We were able to rent out a couple of (football) fields and able to run a typical pro day with an ex-scout and players there. My agent sent that (video) to (NFL) teams. My 40, my vert, and my L Drill were all pretty good. My (long shuttle), I didn’t have as good a turn as I wanted, I slipped, but that happens, and my broad jump wasn’t what I wanted it to be. But I think I did pretty good, and position drills went pretty good, as well.”
What was the training process like?
“When we started there were two groups, there were a bunch of people working out there. I was in the second group so I would lift or I would do speed work at 10 (am) in the indoor facility, and then I would go home and I would lift again at 2 at the Performance Center, which was a gym, kind of similar to what we have at Montana State. There’s turf in there, a couple racks, and some other stuff. I would do that Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Wednesday and Saturday were active recovery, so we would be able to work at the Recovery Center, which was at another location, and we had cold tubs hot tubs, a sauna, recovery boots, and a bunch of trainers to make sure that you were able to recover properly. That was Wednesday and Saturday, and Sundays were completely off. I was able to gain quite a bit of weight and still become faster. I went in around 257 (pounds) and left about 268, and I got faster. So that was something I really liked.”
How were you able to gain weight while gaining speed?
“They had a nutritionist on staff and they had meals we could eat each day, and I kind of stuck with that diet. They had a lot of healthy stuff, good tasting and still very healthy, and that helped me gain a lot of lean muscle mass.”
Are you or your agent hearing from any teams?
“Most of the time (teams) will talk to my agent, and he’ll get the information to me. He’s been talking with the Titans and the Texans quite a bit. A couple teams will reach out to me for phone interviews, or will send a link to an on-line questionnaire. But mostly they’ll reach out to (the agent) and he’ll tell me who he talks to.”
Has anything in the process surprised you?
“The workouts weren’t as demanding as I expected because they didn’t want to beat us down so we couldn’t perform at a high level on Pro Day. This is basically Pro Day training, to make sure you have the fastest times and the (best marks). They (emphasized) quick twitch muscles, so it was more (emphasis) on light weight and speed in the lifting than actual heavy lifting in the lower body. Upper body they wanted to get you as strong as possible because you have to do the bench (press as part of the Pro Day drills).”
In reflection, what do you think about the time you spent at Montana State?
“I absolutely loved it there, and I miss being there already. It’s a great community. The team, with Coach Choate, from when I first got there to when I left, even in that short time it changed a lot. To see that program going in the right direction is huge, and pretty (rewarding). I can’t wait to see the future (of Bobcat football) with Choate as head coach.”
How did MSU football compare to your expectations, or to your experience at Washington?
“When I first got (to MSU) everything was new. Campus was definitely a lot smaller than Washington, which I really like, because Washington was just a huge campus, it took like 40 minutes to get from one class to another. I really liked how the (MSU) campus is laid out. The weight room sessions, I’m not sure what I was expecting, I got here in the winter, but they were pretty on par with Washington. They were good. (MSU Strength) Coach (Alex) Willcox runs a good strength program.”
What observations do you have about the level of competition and support of the Bobcats?
“The enthusiasm is off the charts. Bobcat Stadium, everyone wearing gold (for the Gold Rush game), that’s really special, they didn’t have that anywhere I’ve been. That was definitely great, and it’s a great environment. The level of competition is up there. People think (FBS to FCS) is a big drop in competition, but it really isn’t. There are a lot of good players that you have to go against.”
What was it like going from a supporting role at Washington to a key defensive player at MSU?
“I didn’t really pay too much attention to my status. I did what Choate, (defensive coordinator Ty) Gregorak or (defensive line coach Byron) Hout said in that first season, I just did the best I could. Being able to do my job and do it well, doing my 1/11th, was the best thing I could do for the team at that point, that’s what I told myself.”
In retrospect, was the transition from Buck to defensive end difficult and did playing both positions help your development?
“I’d say so. It’s good to have perspective from both sides of the field, and good to be able to drop (into coverage) and (also) rush the quarterback. I think the biggest thing to me was being able to play the 4I, in between the guard and the tackle, that definitely took some getting used to. I really started picking that up midway through the season of my senior year because I’d never done that before, high school or college. As I picked that up it started really clicking and I started seeing some results in that (defensive end) position.”
What do you like about rushing the passer?
“What I really liked was going one-on-one with the (offensive) tackle. Throughout the week you watch film on him and see his weakness and what works against him. So if he’s susceptible to speed rush you run through him a couple times, then he adapts and kicks back farther in order to power that speed rush, then you just go up and under. So it’s kind of a game within the game that you’re playing with the tackle. That’s the most fun that I had pass rushing.”
Playing as far as the FCS semifinals with a group of guys you really enjoyed had to be a lot of fun, right?
“That was fun, and Choate would often quote Logan Jones saying he wished that team could last forever, and that definitely was the case. It was a fun group of guys to be with, everyone got along with everyone, and like Choate said, this team could go as far as (the players) want it to. We definitely took that to heart and definitely took advantage of that and played almost as much football as we possibly could have.”
What was your defensive line room and your time with that group of guys like?
“It was definitely fun. We all are a little bit different, like Derek (Marks) is a little bit more to himself, things like that, but when we got to that meeting room we were focused but we were also kind of relaxed. We were able to joke around with each other and just have fun, which is what football is supposed to be. In the trenches if I couldn’t get to the quarterback or make the tackle I knew that Chase (Benson) or Derek or Amandre (Williams) would be right there anyway, so being able to rely on those guys was huge and put your mind at ease.”
What was the experience of playing for Byron Hout like?
“He definitely taught me a lot about football. He pushed me to prepare more in the film room and be able to understand concepts of the offense, offensive schemes, things like that. So he was definitely a great mentor in that way, having me prepared for the game throughout the week, not just in practice but in the film room.”
How did playing in two Cat-Griz games compare to playing in the Washington-Oregon or Washington-Washington State games?
“It’s so much better. Those rivalries - they don’t get into football at Washington as much as here at Montana State. The Apple Cup is more just a game at this point, because Washington State (isn’t competitive in the series currently). Cat-Griz is definitely something that is special and super heated, I felt that as soon as I got there having not even grown up in Montana.”
You took pride in wearing number 37 in the Blue and Gold, how did that come to be?
“In high school it wasn’t my number, but there were good players (at Lynden) that wore that number so that was the number that we all kind of wanted. Then when I got to college at Washington they just gave me that number, I didn’t ask for it, that was the one I had. When I came to Montana State I kept that number, but I didn’t understand the meaning that number had for the Griz. As I learned what that number meant to them it kind of felt like that put a chip on my shoulder, and I took a little bit of an ornery stance with it and tried to be better than their number 37, maybe get under their skin.”
Do you have any sense for what role an NFL team might see you fitting into?
“It depends on what defense they run, kind of like what we did. If an NFL team runs a 3-4 defense I’d most likely be a Buck (hybrid end-outside linebacker), like I was my junior year, but if they run a 4-3 with four defensive linemen I’d most likely be a defensive end. I definitely see no issues with whichever (role) it may be, whether it was a standup Buck or a D-end.”