April 6, 2024

Queen’s Ryan Berta eager to begin football career

Andrew Mahon/CFL.ca

Ryan Berta was taking time out from his final week at Queen’s University to talk about himself a little. His future, his football dreams.

The offensive lineman was putting the finishing touches on his degree in history, a degree he most likely will put to use as a teacher somewhere down the road, having already been accepted at two different teaching colleges, awaiting word from a couple more.

That’s for a life after a football career, though. Or, perhaps, one concurrent with his playing days.

If that part of the scenario is uncertain, Berta is sure of another part and that is that he cannot wait for the CFL draft on April 30. The native of Hamilton is raring to go, raring to show what he can do at the pro football level.

“I’m just bitin’ at the nail to get out there,” says Berta, who gained a little more notoriety at the 2024 CFL Combine presented by New Era in Winnipeg, two weeks ago, leading all bench-pressers by lifting 225 pounds 30 times.

“If I could go tomorrow,” he says of training camp, “I’d go tomorrow.”

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What will the CFL team that selects him get from Berta?

By his own description, they’ll get a fierce competitor, a junkyard dog of a line of scrimmage scrapper. And that’s not just because he knows it’s in the job description. Berta says he really does relish the whitewater of aggression and physicality that prevails in the trenches on every snap of the ball.

“I love it,” he says with enthusiasm. “You like to impose your will on someone with them not being able to do anything. I got big meat paws and if I get ‘em on ya, it’s going to be a grudge match to say the least.”

If that’s a natural inclination on Berta’s part, it’s one that was also fuelled by the play of a former Ticat offensive lineman who anchored the Hamilton line for years – “basically the whole time I was growing up and following the CFL,” says Berta – and who caught the imagination of a young man who saw a little of himself both in his play and in his physical stature.

Mike Filer,” says Berta, with admiration. “He had the big beard and everything and actually, from what I remember, I’d say we probably have pretty similar body shapes.”

Berta has been playing football since the age of eleven, when he first suited up in the Hamilton Minor Football Association.

“I played tight end,” says the offensive lineman of his football origin story. “I was always really fast when I was younger. From a young age I wanted to pursue football and I wanted football to be a big part of my life.”

That early speed of his has faded a bit, although Berta says he’s still proud of the velocity he can achieve as a big man. At the CFL Combine, he finished fifth among lineman in the forty, clocking in at 5.39 seconds, meaning he’d attained one of the goals he’d set going in; of breaking the 5.4 second mark.

“I’m a little tankier,” he says of his body type, standing six-foot-two and weighing in at 307 pounds. “So it’s pretty good speed I’d say.”


As a high school student, Berta quickly transitioned away from tight end at Hamilton’s St. Jean de Brébeuf. In grade nine, he already weighed in at around 240 pounds. With some of his friends playing on the line, he decided to join them, and was on a mission to bulk up, scarfing down carbs whenever he could.

“We started eating a lot more,” Berta says with a chuckle. Going over to a lot of my Italian friends’ houses to have dinner.”

At Queen’s University, Berta played guard during his rookie campaign, but was asked to take a whack at centre when the team started training camp the next season.

“I thought it was a great plan,” says Berta. “I ended up beating out a fifth-year centre that year. I haven’t really looked back and I’ve been playing centre ever since.”

Last year, Berta anchored a Queen’s line that keyed a powerful ground attack, with the Gaels leading the OUA in rushing yardage with 1,938 over eight regular season games. Berta was named the OUA’s all-star centre at the conclusion of the season.

Heading into the CFL Combine, his name was not seen on the list of top 20 prospects and it’s unclear as to whether Berta’s performance in Winnipeg will push him onto that list. But he most certainly will be selected (In his first edition of a mock draft Marshall Ferguson has Berta going 25th, overall, to the Toronto Argonauts).

Beyond his top-of-the-table bench press performance and his suitable 40 time, Berta surprised even himself when he launched that tanky body of his a distance of eight feet, six inches in the CFL Combine broad jump.

“I’d never jumped that far in training, even,” he says of a mark that was a full half a foot better than his personal best. “I was pretty happy with that.”


There was a healthy interest in Berta at the CFL Combine. Five teams saw fit to bring him into the interview room to test him on his smarts and to see what kind of personality they might be adding to their locker room.

“Just as a CFL fan, it was pretty cool meeting the coaches,” says Berta who quite enjoyed the process after he’d gotten the first interview under his belt.

“I feel like it went pretty good,” he says of his entire CFL Combine experience. “It was a ton of fun.”

At the end of it all, Berta is not concerned with how draft night plays out, so long as he hears his name at some point during the eight rounds of selections.

“I just wanna get the opportunity to show them what I can do,” he says. “I’m not opposed to going anywhere, I just want the opportunity.”


Berta actually listed a pass reception as one of his more embarrassing moments when asked about it on the CFL Combine player survey.

As he’s a former tight end, I wondered why that was.

Turns out Berta caught a deflected pass just a yard past the line of scrimmage during a game against Guelph a couple of years ago. He took off down field and swears that if he’d beaten just one tackler, he’d have gone the distance for a major.

“You play offensive line for so long,” he says of the unexpected reception on his university stats line. “It didn’t feel natural, but something about it’s just like ‘I gotta rip it in.’ So I ended up grabbing the ball, otherwise it would have hit the ground, and I started running. I probably got about ten yards.”

“I felt like a flash of lightning out there,” laughs Berta. “But then you rewatch the film and I’m barely moving like molasses.”

Although Berta picked up yards after catch on the play, his one and only reception is listed as merely a one-yarder. If he’d actually rumbled into the end zone, the major would not have counted, he says.

“Turns out there’s some rule if an offensive lineman catches, like a (deflected) ball or something, that it’s only (marked) where he caught it. So it was one yard.”

“It should have been twelve or thirteen.”

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