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Eric Berry
refer to caption
Berry on the field 2010
No. 29 – Kansas City Chiefs
Position: Safety
Personal information
Born: (1988-12-29) December 29, 1988 (age 29)
Atlanta, Georgia
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school: Fairburn (GA) Creekside
College: Tennessee
NFL Draft: 2010 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
Career history
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 1, 2017
Total tackles: 434
Sacks: 5.5
Interceptions: 14
Forced fumbles: 3
Pass deflections: 50
Defensive touchdowns: 5
Player stats at

James Eric Berry[1] (born December 29, 1988) is an American football safety for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Chiefs fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He played college football at Tennessee, where he was a two-time unanimous All-American and recognized as the best collegiate defensive back in the country. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma on December 8, 2014. After going through chemotherapy in the offseason and being declared cancer free, Berry came back for the 2015 season and was named to the Pro Bowl, the AP All-Pro team, and was named the 2015 AP Comeback Player of the Year.

Early years[edit]

Berry was born in Fairburn, Georgia. He attended Creekside High School in Fairburn, and was a standout athlete for the Seminole track and football teams.

Berry played cornerback and quarterback, earning a 37-5 record as a starter at Creekside.[2] He was teammates with Rokevious Watkins and Terrance Parks. Following his stellar high school career, Berry was invited to play in the 2007 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Berry was considered the top player in Georgia and the top cornerback prospect by every recruiting service, and ranked him the #3 player in the nation.[2] He was once clocked at 4.38-4.41 range at the 40-yard dash at a soft indoor surface at a high school Combine.[3]

Berry was also a standout athlete for Creekside's track team. He set school records in long jump, with a leap of 6.95 meters, and 200 meters, with a time of 21.76 seconds.

Berry was the anchor leg of the 2006 Class 4A state championship 4 × 400 meters relay team. Individually, he was the 2005 Class 4A state champion in the 200 meters and 2007 Class 4A state champion in the Long Jump, beating future NFL players Brandon Boykin, 2nd and Stephen Hill, 3rd.

He had career-bests of 10.66 seconds in the 100 meters and 21.44 seconds in the 200 meters.[4]

College career[edit]

Berry received many scholarship offers, but chose to attend the University of Tennessee, where he played from 2007-2009 under head coaches Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin.

2007 season[edit]

As a freshman, Berry replaced fifth year senior Jarod Parrish after a strong showing in his first collegiate game against California.[5] Berry turned in several big plays during his freshman season en route to being named the SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year by the Sporting News.[6] His 222 return yards (on five interceptions) broke the 37-year-old Tennessee record by 43 yards.[7] Berry led all SEC freshmen in tackles with 86. He twice was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his play over the regular season's final three games.[8] After the season, he was also named 1st team Freshman All-American by Rivals.[9]

2008 season[edit]

Berry in 2008 as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Prior to the season, despite being a sophomore, Berry was named a team captain.[10]

For the year, Berry tied for the national lead in interceptions with seven and returned them for 265 yards and two touchdowns, breaking the record he set the year earlier. Combined with the yards he accumulated as a freshman, Berry set the all-time career SEC record for interception return yards with 487 yards, only 14 yards shy of the NCAA record for interception return yards, set by Terrell Buckley during his time at Florida State. He also finished the regular season with 72 tackles, 6 pass break-ups and 3 sacks.[11]

Berry also took snaps on offense at quarterback and wide receiver, gaining 44 rushing yards on 7 carries. In addition, he gained 32 yards on two kick-off returns.

His early success had some journalists speculating that he could end up being the best defensive player in Tennessee history.[12] He was nominated as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the Lott Trophy, and the Chuck Bednarik Award.

Berry was named the SEC Defensive Player of the year and was a first-team All-SEC pick. He was also a unanimous first-team All American.[13] The Touchdown Club of Columbus also named him their winner of the 2008 Jack Tatum Award as well.

2009 season[edit]

Following his junior season in 2009, Berry was a first-team All-SEC selection, and was recognized as a unanimous first-team All-American for the second consecutive season.[13] He won the Jim Thorpe Award and also was the recipient of The Touchdown Club of Columbus's Jack Tatum Award for the second straight year.

He forwent his last year of eligibility at the University of Tennessee and entered the 2010 NFL Draft.

College awards and honors[edit]

College statistics[edit]

Correct as of the end of the 2009 season.
Year GP–GS Tackles Sacks Pass Defense Fumbles
Tackles Loss–Yards No–Yards Int–Yards TD PD QBH Yards FF
2007 14–14 86 2–3 0–0 5–222 1 4 0 55 2
2008 12–12 72 9–21 3–11 7–265 2 6 0 0 0
2009 12–12 83 7-15 0–0 2–7 0 7 3 46 1
Total 241 18–39 3–11 14–494 3 17 3 0–0 0

Professional career[edit]

"As a rule, safeties aren't talked about going that high. But this guy I think in everybody's mind impacts the game. You try to get impact players, and Berry's certainly one."

St. Louis Rams GM Billy Devaney.[14]

Following Tennessee's 37–14 loss to Virginia Tech in the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl, Berry announced his decision to forgo his final year of college football eligibility, entering the 2010 NFL Draft.[15] At the NFL combine, Berry officially ran a 4.47 40-yard dash time.

Berry was regarded as the highest scouted safety since Sean Taylor, whom Berry idolized prior to Taylor's death,[16][17][18] and was expected to be selected no lower than No. 7, the Cleveland Browns pick.[14]

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Berry with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, making him the highest drafted defensive back since Taylor, and the highest drafted Tennessee Volunteer since Jamal Lewis.[19] Berry selected number 29 as his jersey number in honor of former Tennessee defensive back standout Inky Johnson, whose career was cut short due to an injury and also as a tribute to his hometown Fairburn, Georgia, and the main road U.S. Route 29.[20]

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
5 ft 11 58 in
(1.82 m)
211 lb
(96 kg)
33 14 in
(0.84 m)
9 58 in
(0.24 m)
4.47 s 1.54 s 2.51 s 4.23 s 6.80 s 43 in
(1.09 m)
10 ft 10 in
(3.30 m)
19 reps
All values from NFL Combine[21]

He and the Chiefs agreed to a six-year, $60 million contract on July 30, 2010 making Berry the highest-paid safety in NFL history.[22]

Berry also signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Adidas.[23]

2010 season[edit]

In his first season, Berry started all 16 games and became the first Chiefs rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since linebacker great Derrick Thomas.[24] Berry had a big impact on the team's defense, helping to improve it from 29th best unit in the 2009 season in terms of points allowed to 11th in the 2010 season,[25][26] In addition to starting every game, Berry was on the field for almost half of Kansas City's special teams plays and was the only Chiefs defender to play every defensive snap.[27]

He led the team in interceptions (4), and was second only to Derrick Johnson in tackles (92) and solo tackles(77).[28] On December 26, 2010, Berry scored his first NFL touchdown on a 54-yard interception return against the Tennessee Titans. In his first playoff game, he recorded a career-high in solo tackles with 9 and passes defended with 4.

2011 season[edit]

On September 11, 2011, Berry suffered a torn ACL, and was placed on injured reserve on September 14, ending his season.[29] Berry had surgery on September 29, 2011.

2012 season[edit]

After playing in just 1 game in 2011, Berry came back to the Chiefs and played all 16 games. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the season.

2013 season[edit]

In 2013, Berry played in 15 games, recording a career high 3.5 sacks while also recording two fumble recoveries.

2014 season[edit]

On September 14, 2014, Berry sustained a high ankle sprain against the Denver Broncos, with the injury keeping him off the field until Week 8.[30]

During a loss against the Oakland Raiders on November 20, 2014, Berry began to complain of chest pain. A mass was soon discovered in his chest, with him eventually being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma on December 8, 2014. Berry was placed on the Chiefs' non-football illness list, ending his season. Berry's doctor, Dr. Christopher Flowers, a lymphoma specialist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, said of Berry's diagnosis, "This is a diagnosis that is very treatable and potentially curable with standard chemotherapy approaches. The goal of Mr. Berry's treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now."[31]

2015 season[edit]

On July 28, 2015, the Chiefs announced through their official Twitter account that Berry had been cleared to resume football activities after he was declared clear of cancer nearly nine months after his initial diagnosis. Berry returned to the field gradually, but earned back his starting job and had a phenomenal 2015 season. He was selected to another Pro Bowl as the starting safety and many experts and coaches around the league remarked that he was the best safety in the entire NFL. He was named Comeback Player of the Year.[32] He was ranked 55th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.,[33] as he helped the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and Wild Card berth, after overcoming Hodgkin's Lymphoma.[34]

2016 season[edit]

The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Berry on July 14, 2016.[35] Due to both parties not agreeing on a long-term contract, Berry held out of all offseason training activities and eventually signed his $10.8 million franchise tender on August 28.[36] In Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons, Berry became the first player to return an interception for a defensive two-point conversion since the rule was enacted in 2015, as he intercepted a pass from quarterback Matt Ryan during the Atlanta Falcons' two-point conversion attempt. The return provided the winning score for the Chiefs, who won 29–28. He also returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown earlier in the game, earning him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.[37][38] He was named to his fifth Pro Bowl and third First-team All-Pro.[39] He was also ranked 13th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017 as the highest ranked defensive back.[40]

2017 season[edit]

On February 28, 2017, Berry signed a six-year, $78 million deal with Chiefs including $40 million in guaranteed and a $20 million dollar signing bonus, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.[41] During Thursday Night Football against the Patriots in Week 1, Berry was carted off the field with an apparent Achilles injury.[42] The following day, the Chiefs announced he had ruptured his Achilles and that he would miss the rest of the season.[43] He was placed on injured reserve on September 9, officially ending his season.[44]. Berry underwent surgery on September 12.[45]

NFL statistics[edit]

Year Team Games Tackles Fumbles Interceptions
G GS Comb Total Ast Sacks FF FR Yds Int Yds Avg Lng TD PD
2010 KC 16 16 92 77 15 2.0 1 0 0 4 102 25.5 54T 1 9
2011 KC 1 1 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2012 KC 16 16 86 73 13 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0.0 0 0 10
2013 KC 15 15 74 66 8 3.5 1 2 24 3 134 44.7 49 2 10
2014 KC 6 5 37 32 5 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 2
2015 KC 16 15 61 55 6 0.0 0 0 0 2 40 20.0 25 0 10
2016 KC 16 16 77 62 15 0.0 1 0 0 4 98 24.5 42T 2 9
2017 KC 1 1 7 4 3 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 86 84 427 365 62 5.5 3 2 24 14 374 26.7 54T 5 50


Personal life[edit]

Berry's father, James, played running back for the University of Tennessee from 1978 to 1981, and was a captain of the 1981 squad.[2] Berry's younger brothers, twins Elliott and Evan, currently play football at Tennessee.[47] Berry is the first cousin once removed of former All-Pro Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Hugh Green.[48][49]

Berry suffers from equinophobia, a fear of horses. His condition is frequently brought on by the Kansas City Chiefs' mascot, Warpaint.[50]


  1. ^ "Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry". Kansas City Chiefs. Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  2. ^ a b c UT Sports Information (7 September 2007). "Eric Berry #14". Archived from the original on 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  3. ^ FOX Sports (6 June 2013). "Kennedy: Scouting Eric Berry in High School" – via YouTube. 
  4. ^ "Eric Berry - Stats". MileSplit GA. 
  5. ^ Mike Strange (6 September 2007). "Williams Rewarded with First Start". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  6. ^ Bryan Mullen (29 November 2007). "UT's Berry, Lincoln earn freshman honors". The Arkansan. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  7. ^  Eric Berry. "Player Bio: Eric Berry". University of Tennessee Athletics. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  8. ^ UT Sports Information (29 November 2007). "Berry SEC Def. Frosh of Year, Lincoln top kicker". Retrieved 2007-11-29. [dead link]
  9. ^ UT Sports Information (29 November 2007). "Berry Named Freshman A-A; Lincoln 2nd Team". Retrieved 2007-11-29. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Berry humbly heroic". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  11. ^ "Eric Berry 2008 Game Log". College Football at Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  12. ^ Jones, Jimmy (2008-10-20). "Berry coming through for Vols". Shelbyville Times-Gazette. 
  13. ^ a b 2011 NCAA Football Records Book, Award Winners, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, p. 12 (2011). Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Ridenour, Marla (April 3, 2010), "Browns consider using seventh pick in draft on safety Eric Berry", Beacon Journal 
  15. ^ Ward, Austin (December 31, 2009), "Berry makes it official: ready for NFL", GoVolsXtra 
  16. ^ Hooker, Dave (April 30, 2010), "Berry takes his admiration of Sean Taylor to Chiefs", GoVolsXtra 
  17. ^ Rosenthal, Gregg (April 4, 2010), "Trade could clear way for Eric Berry to land with Browns", Pro Football Talk 
  18. ^ Casserly, Charley (April 26, 2010), "AFC draft: Rating top picks, intriguing players to follow", CBS Sports, archived from the original on April 28, 2010, He was a better prospect than Sean Taylor. 
  19. ^ Blunda, Michael (April 1, 2010), "Chiefs weighing pros, cons of drafting Berry at No. 5", Pro Football Weekly, archived from the original on April 17, 2010 
  20. ^ Dawson, Chief (2010-04-26). "2010 NFL Draft: Eric Berry Fourth In Rookie Jersey Sales". Arrowhead Pride. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  21. ^ "Eric Berry Combine Profile",, retrieved March 2, 2010 
  22. ^ "Berry, Chiefs agree to six year, $60M contract just before camp", July 30, 2010.
  23. ^ [1], May 4, 2010.
  24. ^ "Thirteen replacement players announced for Pro Bowl". Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  25. ^ "Kansas City Regular Season Scoring Defense Stats 2009". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  26. ^ "Kansas City Regular Season Scoring Defense Stats 2010". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Kansas City Regular Season Stats 2010". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  29. ^ "Chiefs place Eric Berry on IR". September 14, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  30. ^ Smith, Michael (September 15, 2014). "Chiefs lose Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles to ankle injuries". Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  31. ^ Teicher, Adam. "Eric Berry has Hodgkin's lymphoma". ESPN. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  32. ^ "Eric Berry named NFL's Comeback Player of the Year". 
  33. ^ "'Top 100 Players of 2016': No. 55 Eric Berry". 
  34. ^ "Chiefs announce Eric Berry will return to field". 
  35. ^ "Chiefs, Eric Berry not expected to reach long-term deal, source says". July 14, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  36. ^ Davis, Nate (August 28, 2016). "Eric Berry reports to Chiefs, signs franchise tag". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  37. ^ Teicher, Adam (December 4, 2016). "Eric Berry has pick 6, 'pick 2' in emotional homecoming victory". ESPN. Retrieved December 4, 2016. 
  38. ^ Lewis, Edward (December 7, 2016). "Andrew Luck headlines NFL Players of the Week". 
  39. ^ "Three rookies, Matt Ryan among players named to All-Pro team". January 6, 2017. 
  40. ^ NFL Top 100 Players of 2017 - No. 13 Eric Berry
  41. ^ Sessler, Marc (February 28, 2017). "Eric Berry, Chiefs agree to six-year, $78 million deal". 
  42. ^ Rosenthal, Gregg (September 8, 2017). "Reid: Eric Berry possibly tore Achilles, will have MRI". 
  43. ^ Patra, Kevin (September 8, 2017). "Eric Berry out for season with ruptured Achilles tendon". 
  44. ^ "Chief's Eric Berry: Placed on IR". 
  45. ^ "Eric Berry's pre-surgery message to Chiefs fans: 'I'm coming back to change the game'". 
  46. ^ "Eric Berry Stats". ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  47. ^ "Berry Twins Commit To UT",, 4 November 2013. Retrieved: 4 November 2013.
  48. ^ Rick Stroud, "Tennessee Volunteers Safety Eric Berry Likes Idea of Being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer", Tampa Bay Times, 26 February 2010.
  49. ^ Phil Axelrod, "Pitt's Football Recruiting: Win Several, Lose A Few", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 14 February 1978.
  50. ^ "'NFL Films Presents': Horsin' around with Eric Berry". Retrieved July 21, 2014. 


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