Berry learned to like hitting

John Chavis: Eric Berry is the best DB in the country

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Eric Berry says the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games will be a tribute to head coach, Phillip Fulmer, with players giving 110% on the field.

Eric Berry says the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games will be a tribute to head coach, Phillip Fulmer, with players giving 110% on the field. Watch »

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Coach Chavis talks about the Vanderbilt coaching staff, specifically head coach, Bobby Johnson.

Coach Chavis talks about the Vanderbilt coaching staff, specifically head coach, Bobby Johnson. Watch »

Knowshon Moreno and Marquise Maze won’t likely believe it but there was a time when Tennessee super safety Eric Berry didn’t like to hit.

“I had to catch my tackling up,” Berry said. “Back in little league, we did a tackling circuit everyday because I really wasn’t that good at tackling and didn’t like contact until I was about 12.”

For all the readers out there (especially Moreno and Maze, two of the many players who have caught a full-fledged Berry hit this season), it’s hard to imagine Berry not being a hard hitter.

Such was the case, Berry said, until he figured out the key to being a great hitter. (Young players take note.)

“Everybody can hit,” Berry said. “It’s just a matter of just throwing your body in there at a pretty fast rate. I guess you’ve just got to put away the fear and run into something full speed to figure it out.”

Berry’s father/little league coach tried to eliminate the fear by lining up his son in tackling drills against linemen.

However, it took Berry’s performance in a game to finally overcome the fear in one transcendent moment.

Berry remembers it well. It happened against his little league archrival with playoff survival on the line.

Just 12-years-old, Berry was striding towards the goal line with a defense bearing down and only one defender in his path.

“There wasn’t any running away from it because I couldn’t go out of bounds,” Berry said recalling the moment. “I just had to lower my shoulder and try to get into the end zone. That’s what happened.

“I put him on his back.”

And scored.

The opposition and the fans in attendance took note.

“After the game, my cousin told me it looked like I told everybody not to touch me anymore on that play,” Berry said. “Nobody would touch me on defense or offense.”

Oddly enough, the hit came while Berry was playing quarterback, which he may do this week against Vanderbilt.

“I’m getting kind of anxious about it,” Berry said. “Hopefully they call my number in the game. If they don’t, it’s totally fine. But it will be nice to get on that side of the ball.”

On his side of the ball, Berry doesn’t fit the mold that so many safeties do. He’s not just a run-stopper. He’s not just a great pass defender. He’s both.

Neither defensive coordinator John Chavis nor Berry can determine where Berry is better - against the run or the pass.

“I don’t even have an answer,” Berry said. “I really don’t know.”

But which type of big play does Berry prefer? An interception or a bit hit.

“It’s pretty hard,” Berry said. “From a big hit, you get the respect from the offensive players. They’re always looking for you, particularly the running backs or the wide receivers.

“When you get an interception, you pretty much get the respect from a quarterback.”

Berry struggles to pick his favorite defensive plays, but not to pick his least favorite. Surprisingly, he most dislikes interception returns for a touchdown.

“I hate pick sixes,” Berry said. “I hate them. You have to come right back on the field. I do like them, but I don’t like them.”

Does that mean Berry is most vulnerable after he’s turned in a game changing interception for a touchdown.

“Nah, don’t do it,” he said. “I’ll come out before I’m dead tired.”

And don’t expect Berry to pass up a big hit. Not since that 12-year-old decided to charge into the end zone. Not since a tough player was born from, well, a soft mindset.

“Nah, he wasn’t soft,” Berry said of his former self. “Let’s clarify that. He wasn’t soft.

“He just didn’t know he could hit.”

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Comments » 27

utmdm writes:

in response to Kosmo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just let it go.

iwilbeafan writes:

in response to Kosmo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

OK, guys, here it is from the horses' mouth. Is Coach Fulmer is willing to lose? Yes, In order to protect his players for one. Secondly he is willing to win, the right way. By doing things the way they are supposed to be done. Notice he does that by encouraging his players, clapping. He doesn't berate them in public much. Nor does he try to put pressure on the officals to call things his way. Have you noticed , for instance, Saban, running up and down the sidelines eyes wide open, yelling at the officials, and Meyer Urban that is, doing much of the same things. These are the things which the world admires. I admire Coach Fulmer's ways of doing things. There are reasons we lost games, and you've just got to learn from it. I understand a lot of you armchair quarterbacks are right about a lot of things. And you wanted a new coach. Well you are going to get one. But a lot of us don't care a hoot about you guys. OK. We hope that you and your coach get along just fine. Just don't coming running to us for sympathy, you can just go see if your buddy John Adams if things don't work out, maybe will hold your hands and feel sorry for you. But the rest of us are True Tennessee Fans, not a bunch of big babies wanting your own way all of the time.

steve22043#233791 writes:

What went wrong? After only allowing four sacks last year, we all expected the offensive line to be good this year, but they have been totally inept. I think McNeil deserves a lot of the blame. Without a line neither the passing or running game can get going. You can fault our highly recruited fast wide receivers for not getting separation, our quarterbacks for not being Division IA calibre, don't think you can fault the tailbacks since the line didn't give them anywhere to run. Think we can fault the new Offensive Coordinator. What a worthless hire that was!

ravensearay writes:

What is wrong with all of you????? This article is about the best player on this team (and a pretty good one at that) and all you people want to do is continue to play the "character assasination games" you've been playing for years. Get over it... He's gone-will be leaving shortly. Why can't you talk about the excellent football player this article is about??? It used to be fun to share/get other peoples perspectives on diferent issues/articles but all some of you want to do is market your own agendas. Why don't you all get together and just start a blog about "complaining" and leave the other blogs for real fans that enjoy the art of sharing intellectual musings?

I promised myself I wasn't going to get defensive but some of you just go way to far.

wishounr writes:

Berry is a leader that doesn't require a great deal of coaching to be a great player.................the rest of the team should follow his lead.

CoverOrange writes:

Seriously, Jack Lail, when a post is "removed by the site staff" (aka you), please, please, please, remove it also from the "replies" to that post. It only makes sense.

CoverOrange writes:

Being a big hitter is not big deal to me (ooohs and ahhs, aside). Hefney was supposed to be a big hitter. What is amazing about Berry is that he is like lightning with thunder that rarely misses.

drwfocus#660070 writes:

Ya Know -- why can't all these players keep their friggin mouths SHUT.

CoverOrange writes:

I wish KNS would give us an "Ignore" button so we could turn off posts by "dolfan."

blitzshoot writes:

Check out this ESPN link. Look at #25 and #32.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/column...

SemperVol writes:

The reason "Shoulder-tackle" Hefney had a hard time tackling was because he led with his back to the defender...

SemperVol writes:

in response to SemperVol:

The reason "Shoulder-tackle" Hefney had a hard time tackling was because he led with his back to the defender...

Correction:

"Offense" not "defender"

JD_MBA writes:

Here are my top 5 defensive players in "modern" UT history (post 1970) based on college performance, not later success in the NFL:

1. Al Wilson (leadership++)
2. John Henderson
3. Eric Berry (in only 2 years)
4. Reggie White
5. Leonard Little

Anyone disagree?

blitzshoot writes:

in response to JD_MBA:

Here are my top 5 defensive players in "modern" UT history (post 1970) based on college performance, not later success in the NFL:

1. Al Wilson (leadership++)
2. John Henderson
3. Eric Berry (in only 2 years)
4. Reggie White
5. Leonard Little

Anyone disagree?

Good list. Haynesworth would be around 6th?

volfan#207874 writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

OK, guys, here it is from the horses' mouth. Is Coach Fulmer is willing to lose? Yes, In order to protect his players for one. Secondly he is willing to win, the right way. By doing things the way they are supposed to be done. Notice he does that by encouraging his players, clapping. He doesn't berate them in public much. Nor does he try to put pressure on the officals to call things his way. Have you noticed , for instance, Saban, running up and down the sidelines eyes wide open, yelling at the officials, and Meyer Urban that is, doing much of the same things. These are the things which the world admires. I admire Coach Fulmer's ways of doing things. There are reasons we lost games, and you've just got to learn from it. I understand a lot of you armchair quarterbacks are right about a lot of things. And you wanted a new coach. Well you are going to get one. But a lot of us don't care a hoot about you guys. OK. We hope that you and your coach get along just fine. Just don't coming running to us for sympathy, you can just go see if your buddy John Adams if things don't work out, maybe will hold your hands and feel sorry for you. But the rest of us are True Tennessee Fans, not a bunch of big babies wanting your own way all of the time.

Right on weluvtnvols! You speak with an air of respect for a man who has given so much for the Vols. I would not hesitate for a moment to appoint Phil Fulmer as our next Athletic Director. Go Vols!

SemperVol writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

Good list. Haynesworth would be around 6th?

I'd put Jason Allen somewhere in my top 10.

Ryan Karl would be somehwere in there, too (that one's for you dvolfan ;)...I'm kidding, just a joke)

volfan#207874 writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

Good list. Haynesworth would be around 6th?

Hacksaw Reynolds and both Mike and Keith Delong would certainly be high on the listing of defenders who loved to hit.

volfan#207874 writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

Good list. Haynesworth would be around 6th?

If Al Wilson can coach like he played the game, I would love to see him join the coaching staff at UT. Go LargArnj!

blitzshoot writes:

Good article from Climer on why the UT coaching search is so quiet and why coaches can say they have not heard from UT.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/200...

volfan#207874 writes:

My bad! In my post of 9:53 I referred to Keith DeLong's dad as Mike, his name is Steve. My apologies to all involved. Also sorry if I inserted names that are not post 1970. I have been watching the Vols for many more years than I can sometimes remember. Attended my first game at UT in 1948, after being a fan for several years before. I have seen some great ones come down the pike and have a little difficulty in associating their playing time to a certain year. Life gets tedious, don't it, when you are in the later stages of the aging process? Go Vols!!

cjraney writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

Good list. Haynesworth would be around 6th?

Haynesworth doesn't even get honorable mention. He didn't learn about effort until his paycheck depended on it. Great pro, underachieving Vol.

SemperVol writes:

in response to volfan#207874:

My bad! In my post of 9:53 I referred to Keith DeLong's dad as Mike, his name is Steve. My apologies to all involved. Also sorry if I inserted names that are not post 1970. I have been watching the Vols for many more years than I can sometimes remember. Attended my first game at UT in 1948, after being a fan for several years before. I have seen some great ones come down the pike and have a little difficulty in associating their playing time to a certain year. Life gets tedious, don't it, when you are in the later stages of the aging process? Go Vols!!

Yea, I almost commented on Hacksaw, but thought...eh, I understand what he means.

I'm nowhere near "advanced in years" as you (and I mean no offense) but it seems you have followed our vols for about 2.5 times as I am old.

That's awesome! I hope to be reporting on the vols like you well into those "later stages".

Thanks.

FWBVol writes:

in response to JD_MBA:

Here are my top 5 defensive players in "modern" UT history (post 1970) based on college performance, not later success in the NFL:

1. Al Wilson (leadership++)
2. John Henderson
3. Eric Berry (in only 2 years)
4. Reggie White
5. Leonard Little

Anyone disagree?

Nice list, but it is so subjective. Some would say Reggie, as great as he was as a senior at UT, was a disappointment his first three years never making as much as All-SEC. Little was a JUCO guy and only played two years, but they were great two years.

Dale Carter, Roland James and Terry McDaniel are three DBs that deserve consideration on any list as well as Roland James.

The biggest hit I've seen in almost 40 years of watching UT is the one Eric Westmoreland put on the Vandy guy in, I believe it was 1998, and I believe both EMo and Raynoch were overshadowed, and rightfully so, but Al Wilson. I'd also consider Dale Jones on the list. There's also a forgotten player lost in the Bill Battle years, Andy Spiva is still the leading tackler in UT history 32 years after he played his last game.

bluetick writes:

in response to dvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Oh really? You think?

webbofconfusion writes:

I think the player should be hands off to the media.

drewgizzle writes:

in response to JD_MBA:

Here are my top 5 defensive players in "modern" UT history (post 1970) based on college performance, not later success in the NFL:

1. Al Wilson (leadership++)
2. John Henderson
3. Eric Berry (in only 2 years)
4. Reggie White
5. Leonard Little

Anyone disagree?

I disagree with one thing... YOU'RE FORGETTING ABOUT ALBERT HAYNESWORTH!!!

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