Cajuns' Hunter Bergeron, an STM alumnus, steps up amid tight end troubles
When sophomore Hunter Bergeron walked on to the UL campus as a defensive end, his path to significant playing time couldn’t have swayed any further from what he was thinking.
Bergeron had mastered his craft as a defensive end for St. Thomas More, garnering a scholarship offer from Southern Arkansas as well as walk-on offers from UL and McNeese. Bergeron hadn’t played any offense since the sixth grade, when he saw some time at fullback.
He struck up a close relationship with current UL tight ends coach Mike Desormeaux during the recruiting process and ultimately chose to walk on the team at UL. When Billy Napier took over the program in 2018, Bergeron got the news his career on defense was over and he would be giving tight end a try.
“I was a little undersized at defensive end,” Bergeron admitted, “but then they told me they would move me to tight end, and I thought that was probably my best chance to play. I looked at it as a positive, and I just said I would do my best, work as hard as I could and try to get on the field.”
The Cajuns suffered more attrition in this young season at tight end than any other position on the field. Chase Rogers, who was expected to be a major contributor for the offense, broke his foot for the third time in the offseason, which ended his season. Rogers has since entered the transfer portal.
Junior Johnny Lumpkin was then expected to step in and be the main target at tight end, but he suffered a separated shoulder, and he too is out for the season. Napier said Lumpkin will be granted a medical sixth year.
“When Chase got hurt — that really hurt us to see that,” Bergeron said. “Then we lose one of our best options in Johnny, that killed us. But it was the 'next-man-up' mentality. You never know what can happen; you always have to be ready, and we just have that next-man mentality.”
Napier said the Cajuns' game plan is fairly systematic and the playbook hasn't changed, despite the tight end depth chart looking drastically different than what was originally planned. Now the Cajuns are looking to two walk-ons — Bergeron and freshman Pearse Migl — as well as another freshman in Neal Johnson and grad transfer Nick Ralston.
“I’ve been impressed with those guys,” Napier said. “They're all smart and very bright. Those guys have taken just as many reps as the starters, and they’ve taken advantage of their opportunities."
Each of the four tight ends saw the field Saturday — Ralston even caught an 11-yard touchdown. Bergeron said the tight end position can be strenuous at times and can be one of the toughest positions to learn.
“It’s hard to remember who you have to block and all your motions and the different outcomes with different coverages,” Bergeron said. “You just have to study film and just try to get any advantage you can.”
Napier said when he first met Bergeron, he knew Bergeron would see the field.
“We have always felt like Hunter Bergeron was going to play with us one day,” Napier said. “He had a good training camp. He was just in a room with a few guys in front of him, but we are confident in him. He is physical and tough and plays with great effort.”
Bergeron credited Desormeaux with helping him go from undersized defensive end to heavy rotation with the tight ends.
“Coach Des helped me out with techniques and having to make the right steps, run routes and break downs,” Bergeron said. “I’ve always liked Coach Des, and when he was recruiting me, I knew it was going to be good coming over here.”
Bergeron competed in the Superdome last Saturday — an experience he also had twice while at STM. But this Saturday, against Liberty, will be Bergeron’s first chance to play in his hometown, and he said he couldn't be more eager to step foot onto Cajun Field.
“I loved the Dome,” Bergeron said. “I loved playing there last week and in high school with the bright lights, but I am looking forward to being in Cajun Field. I am looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd. Hopefully, the students come out and we have a big crowd.”