Berry makes it official: ready for NFL

ATLANTA — Eric Berry would stay if he could.

Any number of factors beyond his control made it basically impossible for the Tennessee junior safety, and after the Chick-fil-A Bowl he confirmed what has long been assumed.

Berry is headed to the NFL whether he really wants to or not, closing out his UT career in a 37-14 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.

“I chose to go ahead and enter the draft this following the year,” Berry said. “I really did go over every possible situation, scenario that I could, went over it with coach ( Lane Kiffin), went over it with my parents, and you know coach just told me this would probably be the best thing for me to do is enter the draft.

“It’s really hard. I think that’s why it took me so long to come out here, I had to kind of get myself together because I really don’t want to leave, but I feel like it’s just something I need to do to help my family. Just to see how hard my parents worked over the past 18 years, and raising my brothers, I feel like this is something I can do to help them just sit down and relax and show my appreciation for what they’ve done for me.”

Berry should have plenty of opportunity to do it since most projections have him as a top-five pick in the draft, with some experts slotting him as a possible No. 1 overall choice.

That would mean a huge payday, though if the money were guaranteed to be the same a year from now, Berry would likely be returning for another season.

“You come in saying you only want to do three years and go into the draft, but just the camaraderie dealing the fans and all my teammates, it’s been a very special experience for me,” Berry said. “For me to have to go — I don’t want to go all the way, I want to stay, it’s been so much fun.

“I guess you could call it a sacrifice I have to make being in college and having so much fun.”

Those good times are officially over now, but they at least made him think about staying.

Stunning Completion: It didn’t take the Hokies long to regain the momentum after UT rallied for two touchdowns and a 14-14 tie in the final minutes of the first half.

On first down, quarterback Tyrod Taylor hooked up with Jarrett Boykin for a 63-yard completion to the UT 3-yard line.

The play began with nine seconds left in the half. After the catch, time appeared to have expired, and both teams headed off the field.

However, the officials put two seconds on the clock and brought the players back.

Virginia Tech’s Matt Waldron then kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 17-14 halftime lead.

“That was such a huge play,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “They’re thinking ‘we’re going in tied at the half,’ and the next thing you know, we’re up three.”

Said Taylor: “I knew there was time left, looking at the clock when Boykin made the coach.

“It surprised me that they were playing prevent defense and he was wide open down the middle.”

Moving Up: Montario Hardesty passed one Travis, but not the other one.

The senior running back gained 39 yards to finish the season with 1,345 yards rushing. That put him ahead of Travis Henry for fourth place in single-season rushing at UT.

Travis Stephens set the UT record with 1,464 yards in 2001. Jay Graham is second with 1,438 yards, and Jamal Lewis is third with 1,364 yards.

Moving Up II: Quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who was under constant pressure from the Virginia Tech pass rush, managed to complete 15 of 26 passes for 235 yards.

That gave him 2,800 yards passing for the season. Only three other UT quarterbacks — Peyton Manning, Erik Ainge, and Casey Clausen — have passed for more yards in a season.

Third Try Works: The Hokies finally got it right in Atlanta this year.

They lost their season opener to Alabama in the Georgia Dome. They also lost to Georgia Tech in Atlanta in October.

“If we lost again, we weren’t coming back,” Beamer said jokingly afterward.

Extra Points: UT leads still leads the Virginia Tech series 5-3 … The Vols are 25-23 in bowls, 1-4 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, bowls, and 19-20 in bowls versus ranked opponents. … Virginia Tech’s senior class finished its career with a 41-13 record. The 41 wins are the second most in school history. … This marked the first time the Hokies have won back-to-back bowls.

John Adams contributed to this story.

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Comments » 57

bobbytodd writes:

see ya

Colts_VolFan writes:

As if there was any doubt. Good luck at STL.

Volunteerfan writes:

SHOCKER!!

crimsonviper writes:

Vol fans should be proud.
One of the best safeties i have ever seen.
And an outstanding example of a student athelete.

RJ_Vol writes:

Thanks for your years at UT. Awesome player. His name will be hanging next to Manning's.

beatlecakes writes:

Wish he would have gotten the record tonight. His junior year was his most forgetable. I don't say that in a bad way but there just was not a bunch of highlights of him for 2009...he will have a great NFL career.

classic writes:

thanks EB, and good luck. We wish you the best.

movol53 writes:

He would be NUTS not to go to the NFL.
Even if he returned they would not allow him to pay his true position because he is playing "backup" for the other ten players on defense. If anyone goofs up he is suppose to "cover" for them. If he had been allowed to play his position he would have broken the record with ease. See you on Sunday EB. Maybe you can cut a deal and go help Peyton; he could use some defensive help.

tinknoz#660213 writes:

no shiznit sherlock!

TopTenn writes:

Good luck Eric, wishing you the best in the NFL. You represented the university with class.

volfanwinorlose writes:

Wow.. I'm in such shock...

We'll miss him, but he would have been crazy to stay another year. Good luck in the NFL, EB!

USNVOL writes:

Best of luck to you EB,wishing you the best in the pro's.

diamond_dave35#235769 writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

or Nebraska in the Callahan era?? Another crappy Raider coach

luvorange writes:

To stay on topic.........Eric, love you and can't wait to watch you on Sunday. Great player, person and Vol legend!

USNVOL writes:

in response to USNVOL:

Best of luck to you EB,wishing you the best in the pro's.

Check out the time boys,the first post in 2010 !

BubbaTN writes:

Good time to leave! Amazing he didn't set the record for all-time interception yards. I thought that would have been a "given" at the first of the season.

james#216392 writes:

Good Luck in the pro's.

timetofireclk writes:

Can you blame him for wanting to get away from this terrible team? All I can say is 3rd and 24 CLK ran off tackle.

volunteer_cowboy writes:

in response to Colts_VolFan:

As if there was any doubt. Good luck at STL.

3rd to TB

TN_VOLFAN writes:

I am looking forward to seeing Eric make big plays in the pros. Go Vols.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

EB....join Manning (best offensive NFLer) and get Rookie Of Year and then become a yearly Pro-Bowler and best Defensive player.

BluezVol writes:

in response to timetofireclk:

Can you blame him for wanting to get away from this terrible team? All I can say is 3rd and 24 CLK ran off tackle.

I was disappointed with the call as well until I considered how flat we started the game; DM dropping a potential game changing TD; WRs running off routes, etc. 24 yards IS 1/4 of the field! Considering the vast majority of our play, I probably would have done the same thing.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Dang! If only EB were Meyer, he would change his mind and stay! Oh wait, Vols DON'T DO THAT! Good luck, see you next yr!

voluntears writes:

GREAT VOL

keepitreal4vols writes:

God Bless You EB. I wish you nothing but success and prosperity. You have earned your payday.

And Monte needs to earn his paycheck.
(yes that is a shot at Monte for not puting EB in position to breack INT return record this year and especially for that lousy scheme againts VA Tach.)
I am soooooooooooo pissssssssssssssssssssssed...

hallmo11 writes:

We know you'll continue to make us proud, Eric.
Go get that #1 pick!

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to SugarBear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't know if your are a troll or not but I tend to agrree with you(not the retire part). I am so pissed at Monte for not getting the players better prepared.

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

Congratulations and thanks to young Mr. Berry for all the great memories. Wish you could have gone out on a winning note, but proud of the way you and the whole team fought the entire game. Good luck in the NFL and may you become a Green Bay Packer!

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

God bless you , EB! Give 'em hell in the NFL!

gatorhator4eva writes:

in response to SugarBear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you have no idea what your talking about, monte kiffin is one of the most well respected defensive minds in all of football(nfl and college, period.). second, they are going to ease up on berry's use in this game because he is going to nfl to avoid injury, coach and berry know this, we did not til end of game. either way you cut it tennessee is getting better, they will be back on top in a couple of years. just need some better recruiting classes.

gatorhator4eva writes:

oh ya almost forgot

thanks for the memories eric, you will truly be missed. go get'em in the pros. one of the classiest and best defensive players to ever play at tennessee.

Ringside writes:

You have earned anything good that happens to you. Best wishes for you and your family and thank you for everything you gave to the UT football program!

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow such negativity! I know we just got our hats handed to us in the bowl by Va. Tech, but we knew this would be a rebuilding year. Last night, we played a very good football team that probably should have played in a bigger bowl. Give Kiffin some time and you will see the turnaround. Not only that, but how many players did we lose to injuries this season? Too many! On a lighter note, thank you Eric for 3 hard played seasons and good luck in the pros! GBO!

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to scknowsit:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What are you smoking? Overrated? You must be thinking of someone else. Eric Berry is the real deal. Taylor Mayes don't even hold EB's jock strap. EB will be a newer version of an Ed Reed/Ronnie Lott combo in the NFL. I have watched a lot of football in my short 28 years on this Earth and I think EB might be one of the best ever at his position. He made some mistakes last night not reading plays and over persusing but who doesn't at his young age? Get off our board idiot! GBO!

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to timetofireclk:

Can you blame him for wanting to get away from this terrible team? All I can say is 3rd and 24 CLK ran off tackle.

I agree is was a very bad play call to run it off tackle on 3rd Down and 24 late in the game. However, its not time to fire CLK after a sub-par season, a season in which he had to rebuild a program that Fulmer didn't recruit for the last 5-6 years with the exception of a few. Namely Eric Berry, Rico McCoy, Gerald Jones and my favorite back Montario Hardesty. Why are we so quick to ask for a coach to be replaced when we don't win 9 or 10 games? Give Lane some time! GBO!

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to gatorhator4eva:

you have no idea what your talking about, monte kiffin is one of the most well respected defensive minds in all of football(nfl and college, period.). second, they are going to ease up on berry's use in this game because he is going to nfl to avoid injury, coach and berry know this, we did not til end of game. either way you cut it tennessee is getting better, they will be back on top in a couple of years. just need some better recruiting classes.

Good post Gatorhator! I'm so tired of fairweather UT fans bashing our program! I get mad so many times at our performances in games that we should have won, but last nights game we were clearly outmatched with Talent and Coaching. Just like you said, we will be back on top in the next two years or less. Give Lane some time! GBO!

rockydog writes:

Sorry to see you go Mr. Berry! However, I would do the same in your shoes. You are an even better person than I even thought you were if you truly don't wish to go pro yet, but put your family first. I look forward to watching you play on Sundays.
To the person who posted that Eric was over-rated, get a clue and a life. No one can deny EB's ability (even if you root for a different team). For you to post this garbage on here is the very definition of shameful and ignorance at the same time.
Off topic - To those bashing Monte - I was as unhappy with the play of the defense as anyone, but you have to take into account the lack of depth to start the year, injuries during the year, and injuries during the game. For the biggest part of the game, our defensive players were around the ball or in the right spot. There were some big break downs, but mainly it fell on the players. Players have to make the plays. I don't think you can blame this game on Monte, especially when the offense leaves them on the field the whole game. It didn't work last night for whatever reason. Life goes on. Keep the faith. UT is headed in the right direction. Sorry to be so long.

huntined#565710 writes:

Smart move EB go get that CASH!! Thanks for your years and great play at UT.

kickedinthavols writes:

We do not need him anyway. Our defense would have been better last night without him. He was not that great.

roloyo writes:

Good luck young man, you certainly deserve it. With any luck we'll being watchin' you next year in Nashville.......maybe.
GBO

PrimeTime writes:

Good luck in your NFL future young man. You are the true definition of what a true Tennessee Volunteer should be. It has been a pleasure watching you these last three years. You will be missed, E-R-I-C B-E-R-R-Y, E-R-I-C B-E-R-R-Y!!! I figured one for the road.

leedsvol2007 writes:

in response to scknowsit:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Monte Kiffin said earlier this year if he had the #1 pick in the draft he would choose Berry.

Kiffin is recognized as one of the finest coaches in the history of pro-football. And his ability to judge and put players in the right roles is unquestioned.

What are your credentials?

CincyOhVol writes:

Berry sees the writing on the wall and is pulling the plug before he finishes his last season with a losing record.

Kick Kiffin to the Curb!

CincyOhVol writes:

Eric Berry is a STUD! Good luck and God bless.

BillyVol writes:

Good luck Eric, I am very proud that you are concerned about your parents. I wish you the very best, and I am a Redskin fan, so I hope you end up with them. To all those folks who put negative comments about the VOLS, and even the negative comments about other schools, I hope the New Year will bring you to understand these are young men with college careers, and coaches who are doing their responsibilities to their employers, yes some may cross the line, but as I always say, "what goes around, comes around."
Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.
It has been a year of change, and a change for good.

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to LazhilUT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It won't hurt my feelings if you leave this site. You should crawl out of your parents basement and get a life. EB thumped Ryan Williams and made some incredible tackles. EB gave his heart to UT.

steelersman42 writes:

Eric Berry, thank you so much for all your years as a VOL and for showing us all what a true VOL is. You are the definition, the epitome, of a real Tennessee Volunteer. Thank you so much for your hard work and great play over the years. You will be missed sorely. I wish you could stay one more year, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. GO VOLS and GO ERIC BERRY!

Southland writes:

Goodbye Eric sorry you did not get to enjoy the glory years at UT. Keep your head on straight and do yourself and your family proud. Good choice to go on and make your money.

givehim6 writes:

If you were to be a recruit choosing a team wouldyou go to a team like UT? I mean look at what we have a new head coach that knows fans want new life in there program, so when trys to add new life he gets blasted by the same fans. Same fans that praise on ofthe most experienced D coaches UT ever had when he coches UT to a great games against most of there regular season, but same fans after a bad bowl game against a top ranked team are ready to fire him also. Also want to rip the best defencive guy for not playing like he has the past two years, you think it had any think to do with the fact there way a new D scheme this year? Do you think our fan support might bring in some top players? I try not to speak up to much but Some of you are just to much! Anyway, dack to Eric. Good luck in the NFL!

ThurmondEppy writes:

in response to timetofireclk:

Can you blame him for wanting to get away from this terrible team? All I can say is 3rd and 24 CLK ran off tackle.

I don't agree with firing CLK, but I was screaming a huge WTF when that happened! Running the ball on 3d and 24???? W-T-F????

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