Berry extensive campaign for Heisman

Kiffin on his dedicated staff and student athletes

Eric Berry is an All-American safety. He’s the reigning SEC defensive player of the year. As of Tuesday morning, he’s officially a Heisman Trophy candidate.

And if Tennessee has its way, he’ll soon become an Internet sensation.

UT’s Heisman campaign for Berry will include some traditional components — an Eric Berry “Word of the Week” calendar mailed to national media members, for instance, and a giant jersey with his No. 14 will be on display before and after games. But the bulk of Tennessee’s first Heisman marketing plan since Peyton Manning’s in 1997 will take place in cyberspace.

There’s already a dedicated Web site (Berry4Heisman.com), pages on Facebook (Berry4Heisman) and Twitter (Berry4Heisman). There’s even a free ringtone of fans chanting Berry’s name during the Mississippi State game last fall available for download at PhoneZoo.com. Soon, there will be a series of YouTube videos, all in hopes of generating a buzz around the dynamic junior safety.

UT director of public relations Tiffany Carpenter, who is heading up Berry’s campaign, said there are other elements that will be revealed throughout the season as well.

“Viral marketing is something that can be very useful,” Carpenter said. “It’s inexpensive. It’s immediate. There’s so many social networking tools out there that we need to use effectively. We’ve got a series of ads we’re creating that we’ll send out sometime in August. It’s just ways to get people talking about Eric and get some buzz surrounding him. It’s also to change people’s way of thinking that it always has to be a quarterback.”

Although a quarterback has won the award eight of the last nine seasons, precedent does exist for a defensive back winning the Heisman Trophy — not that most Tennessee fans need a reminder.

Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson edged former UT quarterback Manning for the award in 1997, largely due to playing some on offense and returning kicks. UT coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Berry could return kicks this fall, but the 5-foot-11 junior won’t factor in the Vols’ plans on offense.

“I would never play someone somewhere based on any award,” Kiffin said. “I was hired here to win games and do the best thing for our team. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win (games). To put Eric over there, I really don’t see that helping us win.”

He also said Berry, who caught a pass at wide receiver against Alabama, and rushed for 37 yards on seven carries in 2008, needs as much time as possible on defense so he can become fluent in Monte Kiffin’s Cover 2 defense.

“This defensive scheme is even going to make him better,” Lane Kiffin said. “Remember, he’s learning a brand new scheme, so it’s not like he’s going into his third year of a scheme and, ‘OK, let’s take him over to offense this week because he knows the defense so well.’ He needs all the reps. … I want to make sure that he’s the best safety in America.”

There’s little competition for Berry on that front.

Heading into his junior season, the Atlanta-area native needs just 15 interception return yards to break former Florida State star Terrell Buckley’s 18-year-old NCAA career record of 501 yards. Last season, he tied for the lead nationally with seven interceptions.

He also was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best defensive back. Southern California’s Taylor Mays, another Thorpe finalist from last year, also returns. However, Kiffin said Berry is more versatile, albeit smaller, than the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Mays.

The versatility, and his ability to return interceptions, is one of the reasons many NFL draft analysts have Berry landing somewhere in the top 15 picks if he elects to turn pro, as most expect, following the season. And Kiffin knows that Berry likely won’t return for his final season in 2010.

“I’ve already given up that Eric won’t be here for his last year,” joked Kiffin, who coached at USC from 2001-06. “I’ll be interested to see how the NFL looks at it, because there will be certain teams that’ll want to draft one instead of the other because of that.”

In many ways, that’s a tribute to what Berry has accomplished in only two years on campus. Plans have been in the works since the middle of last season — perhaps longer — to market Berry for the Heisman this season. Berry found out in February that UT was planning a campaign and received approval from Berry’s parents, including his father James, a former Vols standout, in April.

Berry, who was not part of Tuesday’s press conference, was “floored” when told of the plans, Carpenter said.

UT athletic director Mike Hamilton was a little less surprised.

“For me, it’s hard to believe he didn’t win the Thorpe Award last year,” Hamilton said. “I think he represents everything that’s right about what Heisman candidates should look like. I fully support the staff’s efforts to make sure that the national media and the public knows that Eric Berry is worthy of that kind of consideration.”

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 25

yeavols#228407 writes:

I am in! Berry for Heisman..now if we can only convince the media to stop trying to find a Heisman out of Notre Dame, So Cal, Michigan, and Ohio State..Hey Guys, by the way, add this link to your favorites..its Countdown to Kickoff:
http://www.geocities.com/jerrybecker/...

utmichael20#546617 writes:

Go get'em Berry!! GO VOLS!

pammyvol1000 writes:

Got my vote!!!! Eric Berry.. Eric Berry.. Eric Berry... Eric Berry.. Eric Berry.. Eric Berry...

chrisw2967 writes:

Berry for president

USNVOL writes:

Not only is Eric a great football player,he is also a very nice young man.
His Mother and Father raised him the right way and they should be very proud of him.
Best of luck Eric,hope you win the Heisman and all the other awards that should be awarded to the very best defensive player in the country.
Go Eric,Go Vols,Go Big Orange

volzcrushm writes:

Hey, sounds great. If charles woodson can win the heisman as a cornerback over the great PAYTON MANNING, why shouldn't safety ERIK BERRY win it over a couple heisman QB's?? (UNLESS, E.S.P.N. has something to loose over it)

MillisaAnn writes:

Go Eric!!!

vol_chaz writes:

in response to marc_ash#231781:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Are we sure we want this kid? He's playing this thing for everything its worth. I think he just might go to UT, because there is no way USC will give him the attention he is obviously trying to get.. Oh, btw, this announcement on thursday happens to be the same day that Urban is up to bat at the SEC media days.. Any coincidence? Perhaps we'll steal his thunder?

LiveFaith writes:

Why on earth would anyone care about the most stupid sportswriter / announcer / broadcaster lovefest award every hyped. It's foolish! The self-serving media does not even have a uniform criteria for what the award actually is based upon.

It is as senseless as those criminals in Washington who have taken our nation to the brink of ruin, yet tell us to trust them to fix it. As foolish as it is to trust them, it will be as foolish to get upset when EB gets left out like the others.

I love EB and the Vols, but other than hype and hysteria, who cares about this cr@p?

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to DCFloridaGator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

have to agree on that

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

This all sounds great but for Berry to have a real shot he needs atleast 11 int. and 5 TD's.
Also we would have to have an amazing season.
(not saying we won't)
He also needs a couple of kicks or punts returned for TD's.
We should have had 5 Heisman winners by now.
That award is not about the "best player" its about politics.

he will get alot of int's playing in the cover 2 though.

ravensearay writes:

The reason Eric will not win the Hiesman is because the media relized they scr----up in voting Woodson over Peyton. That was the biggest hiest in the history of the award. And the media doesn't like Tennessee, and the media votes for the award. You guys do the math........... It just doesn't add up.
There is no question in our minds that Eric is so desrving of the awrd because he has so much talent to go along with all that class. They should let the people decide instead of the media. GO VOLS!!!!!

cloudodust writes:

Maybe Sagarin can devise a method for choosing the Heisman winner...

Alt_news (Inactive) writes:

<<“For me, it’s hard to believe he didn’t win the Thorpe Award last year,” said Mike Hamilton>>

Mike based this observation on his years of in-depth analysis and personal understanding of defensive back play.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to DCFloridaGator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

More like a GIANT leap up!!!

drone#208075 writes:

in response to marc_ash#231781:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

3 PM EST would be after Myer is up but a day before Kiffin. If it were FL you'd think Myer would want it to occur before he's on the podium.

golfballs03 writes:

in response to chrisw2967:

Berry for president

Eric Berry 2012

IamScaredOfTrees writes:

We tried to write in Eric Berry for SGA President. I think he finished 3rd. Not bad for not running.

givehim6 writes:

Love the idea of berry for Heisman. Love the idea of Berry returning kicks. But please stay at UT for 2010.

Volunatic writes:

Eric definitely deserves national honors for his efforts on the field. After only two seasons he has etched his name among the all-time Vol greats.
Although the undeserving buckeye got the Thorpe Award last year, it was fitting the the Columbus Touchdown Club gave Berry the "Jack Tatum Trophy" for the nation's best DB.

lou_vol writes:

in response to grvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agree. ESPN kept talking about a couple of punts that Woodson returned, but he wasn't in the top 50 in the country in punt returns.

TommyJack writes:

in response to DCFloridaGator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who are you and what have you done with DC?

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to DCFloridaGator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

your right again DC , 2X I have agreed with you.Maybe DC is getting ready to jump ship abd be a volunteer.Sign DC
back to Eric Berry for President

chargervol writes:

Let's have a tea party, but call it E party. GO ERIC< GO VOLS!!!

OwensboroVol writes:

I believe I have said this before, but Eric is the best player I've seen at Tennessee. Peyton is really close, but I just believe that Eric is better at his position that Payton was. I have been watching the Vols since 1958 and I have never seen a better player. He deserves everything the University can do for him because he really does exhibit everything that a College Football Player should be.

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