July 17, 2024

Top 10 players in Tennessee football history – No. 5

Lead staff writer Adam Milliken continues his countdown of the greatest football players in Tennessee history.

Eric Berry. Photo by Ben Moser.

Eric Berry. Photo by Ben Moser.

Eric Berry

Safety, 2007-2009

The most recent player on the Top 10 countdown, Eric Berry, was a special player who dominated throughout his time with Tennessee.

A highly recruited prospect from Georgia, Berry chose Tennessee thanks in large part to his father, James, who played for Tennessee as well. From day one, Berry was a star.

Berry was a starter from the moment he came into the program, and he backed up the confidence that the coaching staff had in him. He started every game and was named the SEC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year as well as second-team All-SEC.

As his college career continued, Berry only got better.

In 2008, as a sophomore, Berry again started every game and recorded seven interceptions. He was named a unanimous All-American, as well as SEC Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-SEC, and winner of the Jack Tatum Trophy.

By his third and final season with the Vols, Berry was unquestionably one of the best players in the country. He continued that reputation with yet another incredible season.

As a junior, he again started every game of the season, meaning he started every game of his career without ever missing one. Berry was again a unanimous All-American selection as well as a first-team All-SEC player. He won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back, as well as the Jack Tatum Trophy again.

Berry finished his three-year college career with 14 interceptions, which he returned for a total of 493 yards. That mark is the second-most in college football history.

He decided to enter the NFL Draft early after his junior season. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He is currently still a member of the Chiefs football team.

In his NFL career up to this point, Berry has been named to four Pro Bowls, including two first-team All-Pro selections (in 2013 and 2015). He also won the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2015. This award is especially telling of how resilient and outstanding Berry is as a both a football player and a person.

In December of 2014, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By August of 2015, the Chiefs organization announced that Berry was cancer free and had been cleared to return to the football field.

His victory in the battle with cancer shows how determined Berry is. He is an all-time great on the field, as well as off of it.

He was named to Sports Illustrated’s 2000’s Team of the Decade, and he is almost certainly a future College Football Hall of Famer — and possibly even an NFL Hall of Famer.

Featured image by Ben Moser

Edited by Cody McClure

Adam is the Assistant Sports Editor for the Tennessee Journalist and a Junior at UT. Most of his free time is spent watching sports, listening to good music, and enjoying life. If you wish to contact him, you can email him at amillike@vols.utk.edu, follow him on Twitter, @AdamMilliken14, or find him at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-milliken/109/a89/a32.