Adams: For Berry, it's been all right moves

John Adams

His two years of college have gone by the way Eric Berry plays - fast.

Just two years ago, during Tennessee's summer workouts, he was the acclaimed freshman determined to prove he was ready to make the transition from high school to college without breaking stride. Now, he's the face of UT football, an All-American safety for whom his school is expected to announce a Heisman Trophy campaign before his junior season.

As he addressed the local media following Tuesday's workout, Berry seemed as comfortable in the poster-player role as he was as the freshman who aspired to have an immediate impact in the SEC.

Eric Berry - 'The face of Tennessee'

That's the first thing I noticed about Berry as a freshman, he was so comfortable - from his first interview to his first tackle. If freshmen had been allowed to speak to the media regularly, Berry could have been the team spokesman by the season opener.

He not only plays the right way. He says all the right things.

Asked about a Heisman campaign, he said, "I'm just trying to focus on the season. But I can handle it."

Last year, he also could handle being a first-team All-American on a 5-7 team. Don't underestimate the difficulty in that. While his team was being ripped and ridiculed, he was being lauded as one of the best players in the country, and as one of the best players in school history. Despite standing out on the field, he remained one of the guys.

"It's not a problem," he said. "My roommates (four teammates) motivate me to get all my awards. They don't let me get bigheaded. That's all you could ask for out of friends. There's no jealousy there."

Berry recalled a play against Georgia last season when he intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass, then took off on one of those returns that invariably wound up at least 40 yards downfield and in his highlight archives. When he returned to the sideline, he received mixed reviews from teammate and roommate Savion Frazier.

"Savion was like, 'That was a good pick, but you let the quarterback tackle you,' " Berry said.

Frazier prescribed a front-lawn workout as soon as they returned home: "We'll have you working on your jukes, then we're going to get you in the end zone."

In fact, Berry doesn't need much work on his jukes or anything else. In two seasons, he has returned 12 interceptions for 487 yards. And his hits have been as big as his interceptions. Don't take my word for it. Ask Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno.

Berry's career has been distinguished by individual honors and highlights like the spectacular sideline hit on Moreno. He has won the respect of opponents as well as teammates.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was asked this off-season to name the best player in the SEC that wasn't on his team. He picked Berry.

"That's a big compliment," Berry said. "He's a Heisman Trophy winner and has won national championships. I truly respect that.

"I never thought he would think of me like that. That's pretty cool."

Berry didn't have to play a game to win over his UT teammates. He did so in the summer before his freshman season.

"In the first workout, we were in this group together," linebacker Rico McCoy said. "This dude was working like he had been here for years.

"He was working to be first place in every drill. He never let up. He's been like that since day one."

Quarterback Nick Stephens vividly remembers his first Eric Berry moment. He was watching a seven-on-seven drill in which quarterback Erik Ainge seemingly had wide receiver Lucas Taylor open for a touchdown pass.

"All of a sudden, Eric Berry comes out of nowhere and picks it off," Stephens said. "There was dead silence."

The consensus: "Oh my gosh, this guy is gonna be good."

Those first impressions are now bolstered by two seasons of brilliant play. And since Berry projects as a surefire first-round NFL draft pick, his third college season could be his last. But don't assume he has nothing to prove.

He wants to prove something with his team.

"People have to realize we have a lot of talent on this team," he said. "We had a (5-7) season (last year). It makes me mad that people say I'm the only one on the field.

"We just have to shock the world this season and prove everyone wrong."

That's what you would expect from the player who has spent his college career proving everyone right.

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

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 27

lshiple2 writes:

http://graphjam.files.wordpress.com/2...

Sorry everybody, I couldn't help it.

But just to say something relevant, I've had more than one class at UT with Eric Berry. He isn't just a great player, he's a stand up guy off the field too. If anyone deserves high praise and a Heisman, it's him

kingsportvolfan writes:

Eric Berry you are the man!
have an even better season this year than last.
I would love to see you play offense some this year!

Bigger_Al writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

CharlotteVol writes:

We are fortunate that this young man wears orange. GO VOLS!

OrangePride writes:

That's right Eric.......go out and, ALL OF YOU,......shock the world!! Go Vols!!

makessense writes:

I tell everyone that he'll be better than Deion Sanders
and they all laugh but what they fail to remember is that Deion couldnt tackle. Berry not only tackles he obliverates oposing players.

Deion couldnt do that he was scared of contact and game tape will prove that. If you caught the ball on Sanders he could'nt tackle you.

Man he's so special. I can just sit and watch him the whole game and be happy. We need to appreciate him before he leaves. He has to go after this year because the risk of injury. He just hits to hard to risk getting hurt. Berry if your reading this I love you ( just kidding ).
You are one of my faviorate players all time i might even like you more than that boy from New Orleans. I wish you the best and i'll be praying that your shoulder stays healthy i know they can be very painfull

Hunter writes:

Did anyone see the news today that Knowshon Moreno may miss a few games this year due to stress because Eric Berry may be in a neighboring state? At the Combine, I think he was still mildly concussed and complained of migraines.....

How ironic would it be (and it won't happen because of the ESPN/Sam Bradford make-out session) if EB takes back the Heisman that Woodson STOLE from Manning? Just another pick in a stellar career.

the10sevol writes:

if i could body-slam people the way eb does (eat your hearts out, billy jack and chuck norris), i reckon i'd be pretty comfortable, too...
GBO

ZR writes:

Eric and Peyton will be UT's two best players and 0-7 against Florida.

teampenny#658108 writes:

It is not about wins and NC's it is about getting ready for NFL. Life is about decisions. Go Vols

crimsonviper writes:

The best DB in the college football. That's all.

HallowedHill writes:

Berry may not win the 'Heisman,' but without doubt 'He-is-da-man!'

Jillelumpkins writes:

Eric Berry is a stud. Great read!

golfballs03 writes:

Don't let him get hurt!

BigOrangeJeff writes:

in response to makessense:

I tell everyone that he'll be better than Deion Sanders
and they all laugh but what they fail to remember is that Deion couldnt tackle. Berry not only tackles he obliverates oposing players.

Deion couldnt do that he was scared of contact and game tape will prove that. If you caught the ball on Sanders he could'nt tackle you.

Man he's so special. I can just sit and watch him the whole game and be happy. We need to appreciate him before he leaves. He has to go after this year because the risk of injury. He just hits to hard to risk getting hurt. Berry if your reading this I love you ( just kidding ).
You are one of my faviorate players all time i might even like you more than that boy from New Orleans. I wish you the best and i'll be praying that your shoulder stays healthy i know they can be very painfull

Sanders' "tackling" consisted of him running the ball carriers down from behind, then sucker punching them.

He was the wimpiest football player in history - and that includes kickers.

BigOrangeJeff writes:

Eric Berry made Chuck Norris cry.

GreenDevilVol writes:

in response to ZR:

Eric and Peyton will be UT's two best players and 0-7 against Florida.

That may be true ZR PUNK, but the truth is 4 of your so called wins will for ever be tainted by ,pathetic ref calling...or should I say "NON CALLS .........

'96 non interference call !! UT inside the 20 and no call on the d.b. as Kent blazed by him !!!!!!!!

"99 same thing again,with the exception UT was inside the 10 and a chop block on the pulling guard on the same play !!

'00 the BILLIONTH of a second catch that would of been called INCOMPLETE by any ref,with the exception of the ref being the receivers COUSIN !!

'06 the now infamous call of "roughing the passer" to bad he had to let the player bring down his hands,his body knocked down Leak.

So, take FOUR of your wins and shove them where the sun don't shine !! One other note,the SAME cousin ref was calling the '99 and the '00 games,sound familiar,does to me;sounds like Bama in action in a Gator uniform !!!

How much $$$$ does CRYER-LIAR-MEYER have to dish out for more "COUSIN'S" this year...maybe he should start the talks with the golden dome boys for his extra "striped shirt pay-offs" payroll !!!

Get ready for the new UT you dont have that much time to enjoy the SHORT TAINTED RIDE you have had !!!

lildhoss76ut#638162 writes:

EB will forever go down as the player who killed the Gators 09 NC hopes when he picks a tebow pass in the waning moments of the Sept 19th game and takes it to the house for the win.We will sing Rocky Top all night.GO VOLS!

Volunatic writes:

in response to lildhoss76ut#638162:

EB will forever go down as the player who killed the Gators 09 NC hopes when he picks a tebow pass in the waning moments of the Sept 19th game and takes it to the house for the win.We will sing Rocky Top all night.GO VOLS!

That's the spirit.
GO VOLS!!!

lomas98 writes:

in response to Jillelumpkins:

Eric Berry is a stud. Great read!

That term is used a lot in describing college football players. It's pretty funny hearing other males calling 18-22 year old kids "studs".

CrankE writes:

"He was working to be first place in every drill. He never let up. He's been like that since day one."

This is very telling for me. Seeing someone work this hard, right out of the gate was just a shock to many UT players. The quote, combined with results from last season seem to indicate that many on the team watched EB's work ethic and the results and engaged in hero worship rather than trying

Hudro writes:

In order for EB to win the Heisman they will need to get him some reps on Offense as well as playing his usual position.
Supposedly playing some both ways is what won it for Woodson when the great travesity occurred. If Berry gets some offensive TD's to go with his four or five defensive TD's he could make some noise with the voters.

I think he goes pro after this year. Heard both of his parents have recently lost their jobs so family may need his help.Glad we had him.

CoachFulmer writes:

In Berry we trust.

GO VOLS!

learnron#236127 writes:

in response to GreenDevilVol:

That may be true ZR PUNK, but the truth is 4 of your so called wins will for ever be tainted by ,pathetic ref calling...or should I say "NON CALLS .........

'96 non interference call !! UT inside the 20 and no call on the d.b. as Kent blazed by him !!!!!!!!

"99 same thing again,with the exception UT was inside the 10 and a chop block on the pulling guard on the same play !!

'00 the BILLIONTH of a second catch that would of been called INCOMPLETE by any ref,with the exception of the ref being the receivers COUSIN !!

'06 the now infamous call of "roughing the passer" to bad he had to let the player bring down his hands,his body knocked down Leak.

So, take FOUR of your wins and shove them where the sun don't shine !! One other note,the SAME cousin ref was calling the '99 and the '00 games,sound familiar,does to me;sounds like Bama in action in a Gator uniform !!!

How much $$$$ does CRYER-LIAR-MEYER have to dish out for more "COUSIN'S" this year...maybe he should start the talks with the golden dome boys for his extra "striped shirt pay-offs" payroll !!!

Get ready for the new UT you dont have that much time to enjoy the SHORT TAINTED RIDE you have had !!!

GreenDevilVol, In 1996 Fl was up 35-0 before they called off the dogs. The 2006 play was helmet to helmet on Leak. The catch no catch was on second down and Fl had already scored a TD and had it called back for a questional 6 men on the line of scrimmage call. Don't remember the 99 call but you forgot the play clock not running in 2004 which allowed UT extra time. However I'll take those 4 wins your talking about. As for the article, I think Eric Berry is a GREAT football player and person. He represents your school well.

Major_Magilicutty writes:

Two more seasons Berry...PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

in response to lildhoss76ut#638162:

EB will forever go down as the player who killed the Gators 09 NC hopes when he picks a tebow pass in the waning moments of the Sept 19th game and takes it to the house for the win.We will sing Rocky Top all night.GO VOLS!

That will work!

Or he could just destroy Tebow as he tries to Rush for a game winning two point conversion with time running out. Ya know the kind of EB hit that just shuts the whole damn swamp up,,,Crickets!

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

in response to Hudro:

In order for EB to win the Heisman they will need to get him some reps on Offense as well as playing his usual position.
Supposedly playing some both ways is what won it for Woodson when the great travesity occurred. If Berry gets some offensive TD's to go with his four or five defensive TD's he could make some noise with the voters.

I think he goes pro after this year. Heard both of his parents have recently lost their jobs so family may need his help.Glad we had him.

Way we have WR's dropping to injury Eric may have to play some WR, he darn sure has the hands and speed.

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