In late spring 2005, Joe Berger walked across the Carolina Panthers practice field and chatted casually with a few fellow rookies.
Among these young, freshly drafted athletes, the topic of conversation quickly turned to, "What would define a 'successful' NFL career?"
Berger, the last of the Panthers 10 draft picks - and third offensive lineman - told his teammates that day that he'd consider it a good run if he made it through training camp and the preseason before returning to engineering where, at the time, "I probably felt I belonged."
And while Berger didn't remain in Carolina long, he also didn't retreat to engineering. Instead, he weathered the ups and downs of an early NFL career.
Berger was claimed by the Dolphins, for whom he played three games in 2005. He spent time with Miami and Dallas in 2006 and contributed for the Cowboys special teams during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano first met Berger in 2007, when he oversaw the Cowboys o-line. Sparano became the Dolphins head coach in 2008, and in his second season in Miami, he brought Berger over as a free agent.
Sparano was impressed by position flexibility from Berger, who played both center and guard, and a combination of toughness and intelligence that made Berger a promising player.
"The other thing about Joe is that he's a very strong, physical player, and I always liked that about him," Sparano told Vikings.com. "He can play on his feet, and he was a tough, physical kid."