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Penn State’s Jordan van den Berg: The Rugby ‘Freak’ Making Waves in College Football



Penn State’s football team is gearing up for an exciting season with the emergence of a player who is not your typical American football story. Jordan van den Berg, a South African native with a rugby background, is making a significant impact on the Penn State defense, drawing attention for his incredible work ethic and athleticism.

Van den Berg’s journey to Penn State is nothing short of remarkable. Originally from Johannesburg, he only began playing American football as a high school sophomore in suburban Atlanta. After a brief stint at a community college in Iowa, where he quickly earned recognition as a junior college first-team All-American in 2021, van den Berg caught the eye of Penn State’s coaching staff.

Transitioning from Rugby to Football

Van den Berg’s introduction to contact sports began with rugby in South Africa, a sport known for its physicality. This sport is very popular among African bookmakers because of the constant participation of the rugby national team of this country in the largest and most prestigious world competitions and its fans always are looking for website with casinos and sportsbooks that operate in Africa and welcome African players with a wonderful support service, no deposit bonuses, and other amazing promotions. Despite starting as a wide receiver in American football, Jordan’s innate physicality and speed eventually led him to the defensive side of the ball, where he excelled as a linebacker at Providence Christian Academy.

“I like a physical sport, to be able to get your anger out on the field and everything,” van den Berg said. “It really translated well. The schemes are a lot different [between rugby and football], but if you’re a tough physical person, you’re going to find success in both sports.”

Athletic Achievements and Viral Workouts

Van den Berg’s athleticism hasn’t gone unnoticed. Weighing in at 6-3 and 300 pounds, the redshirt sophomore has become one of the most athletic defensive tackles in the country. His impressive offseason workouts, including breaking program records in the squat, earned him a spot on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” at No. 15.

Strength coach Chuck Losey shared videos on social media showcasing van den Berg’s extraordinary feats in the weight room, solidifying his reputation as a hardworking and dedicated athlete. His teammates on the offensive line have taken note of his relentless work ethic and energy on the field.

Teammate Landon Tengwall attested to van den Berg’s unmatched intensity, stating, “If he’s on the field, he’s going 100 miles an hour for sure.”

Development at Penn State

After joining Penn State in 2021, van den Berg spent his first season preserving his redshirt, making an impact in four games. The coaching staff recognized his potential, naming him one of the developmental squad defensive players of the year.

Former Penn State defensive line coach John Scott, Jr., praised van den Berg’s relentless pursuit of the ball, saying, “Even if you got him initially, he’s not going to quit. He’s going to keep hustling to the ball. Guys like that find their way into a play, somehow, some way.”

Expectations for the Season

As van den Berg enters his third year with the Nittany Lions, expectations are high for his performance on the field. Head coach James Franklin expressed confidence in van den Berg’s improvement, declaring him potentially “the most improved guy in our program.”

Van den Berg is projected to be a key part of Penn State’s interior rotation this season, with his playing time dependent on his ability to convert his high energy and athleticism into tackles on the Power 5 stage.


Jordan van den Berg’s journey from South African rugby player to a standout defensive tackle at Penn State is a testament to his resilience, work ethic, and adaptability. As he continues to make strides in his American football career, fans eagerly anticipate witnessing the impact of this “freak” athlete on the Penn State defense in the upcoming season.


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