Adams: Berry is latest UT cover boy

Tennessee cornerback Eric Berry knocks down Wisconsin's Garrett Graham in the Vols' 21-17 Outback Bowl win.

Photo by Joe Howell

Tennessee cornerback Eric Berry knocks down Wisconsin's Garrett Graham in the Vols' 21-17 Outback Bowl win.

When I saw Eric Berry's picture on the cover of a preseason college football magazine, I thought about the Heisman Trophy.

I realize that's quite a leap, particularly since the Heisman is best known in these parts as the award Tennessee's Peyton Manning didn't win. Moreover, it's not as though the cover will be seen nationwide. It was a regional cover for Athlon's SEC preseason football magazine.

So why did I make the connection between Berry and the Heisman?

Maybe it's because Berry is the best Heisman candidate UT has had since Manning departed for NFL superstardom after the 1997 season.

Do I think Berry can win the award? No.

Do I think he's worthy of a Heisman promotion? Yes.

It's the aim-high principle. Although you fall short of the Heisman, you could hit the Jim Thorpe award, given annually to the nation's best defensive back.

UT players have won as many Thorpe awards as they have Heisman's. The difference is the Thorpe award - like so many of the position awards - hasn't been around for long.

Judging from UT's track record with individual awards, it's much easier to be a top-10 draft pick. Manning won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, given to the best senior quarterback, in 1997. UT defensive linemen Steve DeLong and John Henderson have won the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's top interior lineman.

But the Vols haven't had a Thorpe winner or Dick Butkus (linebacker) winner or Ted Hendricks (defensive end) winner. Name one of the position awards - most of which were instituted this decade - and UT probably hasn't won it.

With a little promotional help, Berry could change that.

Last year as a freshman, he flashed the kind of potential that only a handful of Vols - Manning, Chuck Webb, Carl Pickens and Jamal Lewis - did in the 20-plus years I've been following the program on a regular basis. He also won the respect of his veteran teammates long before he became a freshman All-American defensive back. They were talking him up before he played his first college game.

A year later, he appears to be a team leader as well as the team's best player. And it doesn't hurt that he's a good interview with a good storyline. His father, James Berry, is a former UT running back and team captain. In the Athlon story by News Sentinel sportswriter Mike Griffith, the elder Berry told how his son became a student of the game by watching videotape of his youth-league games.

As if Berry doesn't have enough going for him, check out his smile on the Athlon cover. Has anyone ever looked happier holding a football?

UT coaches should take the hint. As good as Berry is in the secondary, he also could help the Vols on offense if his coaches should choose to get creative. He didn't total 222 yards on five interceptions last year just because offensive players are inept tacklers.

But you don't make someone a two-way player to help him win an individual award. As Charles Woodson would tell you, that's just a positive side effect.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 53

VolPride_13 writes:

Berry for Heisman!!

T0MMYJACK writes:

And for whom did he come to play?

ggriggs939#223122 writes:

No Tennessee football player will ever win the heisman popularity contest as long as the new york touchdown club is in control.

rrvolfan#230816 writes:

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Adams Byline = Ignore this article
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GIVEHIMSIX writes:

Berry should turn down the Heisman if he wins. Name another sports award with as much regional bias. Think about it. heisman winners probably have the least amount of nfl success of any of the annual college football awards that are given. how overrated! i would love to see berry get up at the podium and turn down the trophy. hey... a guy can dream.

txsvol#372416 writes:

When Tom Siler was sports editor in Knoxville, he and Gus Manning would promote our players, and invariably they would make All-American. Adams, why don't YOU give up your LSU bias and promote UT football for a change? Aren't you angling for interviews in Tuscaloosa and Gainesville this year? That means you'll be knocking the Big Orange soon enough! Go Vols! SAVol

cdldoc#211897 writes:

Amen, txsvol

drakosben1#216420 writes:

so I guess this means he voted for Charles
woodson??

Gigavol writes:

When will Berry learn the blocking schemes?

DarthVol writes:

And if that isn't working we could put Crompton in at Safety for a few plays.

GreerVol22 writes:

"Name one of the position awards - most of which were instituted this decade - and UT probably hasn't won it."

couldn't resist the dig, could you Johnny? ....may the knats of a thousand camels, nest in your armpits...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I'd settle for the team award of beating Fla or Bama.

alfrizzle097 writes:

The comment about the individual awards wasn't a dig. Just an observation. Jerod Mayo was the number one linebacker pick, wasn't he? Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Al Wilson, and Omar Gaither. The fact that not one of those guys got the best linebacker award shows you that Adams is probably right on this one.

dfreeman writes:

hiresanders - just wondering if you mean that UT players aren't good enough, or that they would never get it because of a bias? Your past posts would lead me to believe you think that UT players never deserved it!

pd - I agree, let's just beat Fla AND Alabama!

vol88 writes:

good story.

Maybe if ESPN doesn't start promoting Michigan's 3rd string punter, Eric will have a chance.

CoverOrange writes:

Carl Pickens did more on offense, defense and special teams than Woodson yet never got so much as a mention toward the Heisman.

Speaking of impressive, that photo of Berry is NOT! Come on KNS, you have to have 100s of photos of Berry better than that.

DennisVols writes:

All the hype about individual awards in a team sport. Go figure!!!

invisiblekid writes:

Run the 2-9 Buzzard defense and the Thorpe would take up permanent residence in Knoxville. Our safeties would be guaranteed 100+ tackles every year.

Seriously, I'll settle for a win over UCLA then go from there. It's still a little early to worry about post-season awards.

TommyJack writes:

Get Jim Rome on Berry's side. He KILLED Peyton's chances.

thesavageorange writes:

invisiblekid , Hopefully the "Buzzard Package" will cover up the flaws of the d-line so well that they will have to create the "Goon Squad" award given anually to the best secondary in the nation.

knoxtenn writes:

I'd rather our guys get the 1st round draft pick, multi-gazillion dollar contract, and successful pro career than any piece of metal.

Peyton's 2d place finish told us more about the Downtown Athletic Club than it told us about Peyton Manning.

I get alot more pleasure out of these guys not winning the big awards, then proving they're the best in the business, than I would if they won the Heisman, etc. and flamed out.

volboy81#211803 writes:

the HeisTman Trophy is still officially worthless here in Tennessee.

scvols writes:

I think Berry will be a very good player, but this is the same player that was beaten bad for a TD in the SEC championship game. I am just hoping he does not get the sophomore blues.

GhostofNeyland writes:

The ONLY way for the Heisman to regain any respectability in the state of TN is for the second ever defensive player to win the award be a TN defensive back. It would also be peachy if he beat out a Michigan QB, but since Pryor went to OSU, I don't see that happening any time soon.

givehim6 writes:

I'm with the other GIVEHIMSIX on this one. Winning a heisman does tend to hurt a pro career. I hope Berry all the best as an athlete collage & pro. GO VOLS!

ggriggs939#223122 writes:

Tom Siler wrote a book years ago in which he explained one reason for the bias of The Downtown Athletic Club, or whatever it is, and why it will never award the heisman to as Tennessee player.
It was awarded to kazmier from princeton (instead of Hank Lauricella), who could not have made the Tennessee squad; to hornung (instead of Johnny Majors)in 1956, who might have made 4th string center (by the way, Jimmy Brown came in 6th in this voting). Only notre dame defensive players were considered for the popularity contest at that time. Neither Dick Huffman, Doug Atkins, nor Reggie White were ever in the running.

thesavageorange writes:

scvols, I wouldn't worry about Berry getting in a slump.Most of the time when a player gets the sophmore slump ,it's b/c they get comfortable ,and their work ethic relaxes.The secondary all stayed on campus ,even though they could have took a 2 week break, so they could work out and run together.Berry is a leader.He and Vinson actually practiced w/ some of the lady Vols soccer team so they could improve their footwork.That's a Jerry Rice type move.He took ballerina lessons to improve his ballance.

thesavageorange writes:

I should have said ballet lessons.Sorry Jerry.

Michael1204 writes:

Safe to say that I'm not the only one here who doesn't care about the Heisman. Screw individual trophies, I want team trophies like an SEC champion trophy, a trophy from a prestigious bowl game, etc.

I want an 11+ win season before I want a Heisman.

rusty_shackleford writes:

"Florida Football: We didn't exist before Little Stevie Superior"

"Florida Football: 100 years of football, 20 years of tradition"

"Florida Football: Bloated with self importance"

volsfaninkpt writes:

Pickens could have won the heisman if he would have played offense and defense during his time at tennessee.

murrayvol writes:

savage: I'm trying to imagine Jerry Rice in a tutu and tights. That's hard. Now seeing him dust a safety and slip into the endzone! That's easy.

murrayvol writes:

DCflorida: "UT has a high standard to be considered great(true), I just don't see Berry in that category (neither do I...yet)." Did you watch any UT games after UF?

Berry got a lot better, and if his supporting cast holds up their end (no guarantees here), Saturday September 20 will be filled w/many not so fond memories for the Gator faithful.

"Hope springs eternal"

jmatt62 writes:

Adams just had to mention Charles Woodson, didn't he? What a guy.

jmatt62 writes:

And uhh, DC, didn't Berry return a TBone pass 93 yards the other direction? Did you somehow selectively forget that? Pretty sure that was a record setting return in Vol history for longest INT for a TD, if not mistaken. So your assessment of "downright bad" is "downright incorrect". Go hang out with Noah in Gainesville and get your facts straight before you post.

jmatt62 writes:

My bad DC, it was only 96 yards for a pick six for Berry against the Gators!! Go Big Orange.

mtnvol writes:

DC, the only difference between the Swamp and a porcupine is the location of the pricks.

chrisw2967 writes:

BERRY for President in 2008

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

I like Crystal Footballs. Individual awards are just that, about Individuals. They are great, but they move on with the Player.

I prefer the Team Awards; Eastern Division Champs, SEC Champs, and BCS Champs. Team Awards stay right here in Koxville!

Individual awards don't do much for recruting, Champioships are the life blood of recruting an National TV Time.

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

Better Spelling might be a good thing also, lol.

Good thing I don't write any of the Vol's Reports.

invisiblekid writes:

"Berry was awful in that game, period."

I disagree completely DCFlorida, the entire team was awful. I bleed orange as much as anyone, but anybody thumping their chest over anything that happened in that particular game needs a reality check by looking at the final score.

I can see where you are coming from overall, but one thing to keep in mind in comparison to some of those greats that you mentioned is the fact that they had 3-4 years to become great. Berry has as much potential as any player we have had in the secondary, but now he has to continue to improve to live up to it.

mbradshaw1#655539 writes:

I don't give a rats -Dexterior about the hype-man trophy. It is voted on primarily by pom-pas people that just think they know talent, and by pro USC, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State crooners. Sorry if I left any body out. I think the trophy is supposed to be for the most valuable player in collage football. If so, take Peyton Manning away from UT and C. Woodson from Michigan, Who would have been missed the most. Not even close!!!!

GO VOLS!!!!

beachvol1 writes:

Now, let's see....Let everybody pick Tebow again, and have ESPN put their all out rush to get another db in the Heisman race and pick Eric Berry and then they can rob Tebow just like they did Peyton...and no comparison in Berry and that db that stole the Trophy..Eric at this stage makes him look like a middle school player....

ncvol writes:

Hear,Hear, tngeoff. I second your post.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

As someone said forget the ...... Award. Done forgot the name. Its awarded in a state with no college football to speak of.

miamiVOL writes:

people denying eric berry's greatness are just delusion, he is the most Can't Miss DB prospect since Sean Taylor or Ed Reed

johnlg00 writes:

Just a couple of quibbles. First, Carl Pickens DID play on both offense and defense at UT and also returned a few kicks, IIRC. He was easily UT's best player on either side of the ball in his time. Second, regarding Berry's "toasting" in the Florida game, as others pointed out, UT's defense as a whole got torn up in that game. Berry may have missed on a few plays, but that was his THIRD college game, as a true freshman, on one of the toughest home fields in the country, against the eventual H****** Trophy winner. That was pretty much his ONLY bad game all year. Lots of more experienced players have been "toasted" in similar circumstances. Third, winning the H****** Trophy doesn't hurt anyone's pro career; it is merely the fact that it is often awarded to guys who excelled in college but didn't actually have pro-level skills. Fourth, ggriggs, your history lesson on the H****** Trophy was correct; however, you didn't say WHY those UT players--and Jim Brown SIXTH!!! It is to laugh!--were snubbed as they were, only THAT they WERE so scorned. I would like to know why you think this is so.

Berryforheisman21 writes:

Berry is 75/1 to win the heisman according to Bodoglife.com

pdhuff#552644 writes:

One thing the Heisman means is failure as a pro, usually. Some make it, most don't.

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