That probably was not the case a couple of years ago when Derek Dooley was UT’s coach.
UT football means a lot to Berry, the former All-American safety for the Vols (2007-09) and current Pro Bowler for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tennessee is where his career blossomed.
“I feel like (Jones is) really trying to make a change in our university and our team, and anytime you’re doing that, I’m going to support you to the fullest,” Berry said Saturday during the Eric Berry D1 Iron Sharpens Iron Football Camp at Grace Christian Academy.
“I just feel like he’s a good person in general, not just a good coach, but I feel like he’s a good person. He’s trying to do things the right way and he’s trying to handle them to the best of his ability, so that’s always cool.”
Berry said he has had several conversations with Jones — and it’s not just shoptalk.
“We talk about football a little bit, but usually he’s pretty much just checking up on me, seeing how I was doing, and I talk to him about his family, he asks me about mine,” Berry said. “I think it was more of us just getting to know each other, not more so of just talking football all the time. I appreciate that too as well.”
Jones has some serious interest in Berry’s family.
In particular, UT is one of many schools offering football scholarships to Berry’s twin brothers, Evan and Elliot, for the Class of 2014.
Evan Berry actually committed to UT in June of 2009 when he was 13 years old — the summer before Lane Kiffin’s only season as the Vols’ coach — but that commitment was null because Evan had not registered as a prospect with the NCAA Eligibility Center, so UT could not formally offer him a scholarship at that time.
The Berry twins, rising seniors at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga., have opened up their recruitment and given older brother Eric no idea where they are leaning.
So what is their take on Butch Jones?
“They haven’t really even said anything about him,” Berry said. “They just said they’re interested in Tennessee, along with some other schools, and they enjoyed their visit up here. That’s all they told me. They’ve kind of just been keeping it between the two of them.”
They will probably get more of an endorsement from Eric with Jones at the UT helm than if his predecessor, Dooley, was still head coach. Dooley was fired before the last game of the 2012 season.
When asked by the News Sentinel if he ever had contact or conversations with Dooley during his post-UT playing days, Berry responded: “A little bit.”
How was that?
“It is what it is,” Berry said.
Berry was more positive when asked about his experiences with the two coaches for whom he played at Tennessee. He was signed by and played for Phillip Fulmer for two seasons (2007 and ’08), and played his junior year under Kiffin (2009) before turning pro.
“It was two different coaches, so I don’t compare them to each other,” Berry said. “They were just different. I just learned a lot from both of them. With Coach Fulmer here, I had a privilege of working with John Chavis (former defensive coordinator), who I feel like is one of the best coaches I ever played for.
“I feel like (Chavis) pretty much taught me a lot of the things that helped me throughout my career, and with Lane, I had Monte Kiffin (as defensive coordinator), an NFL guy, and I learned a lot of things from him as well. I definitely think I was privileged to play for both of those guys, and I learned a lot.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.