RECRUITING: Damien Berry Has 5 Favorites

Bell Glade is a recruiting hotbed that has been kind to the Gators over the years. Fred Taylor, Reidel Anthony and Louis Oliver got their start at Glades Central before standout careers at Florida earned their tickets to the NFL. Glades Central will be loaded with talent again this fall and one of the brightest stars is cornerback Damien Berry, who has the lineage and the physical tools to be a big time player at the college level.

(Damien Berry profile)

Berry played at Riviera Beach Sun Coast last season before tearing his ACL and MCL after the second game. In two games as a running back he amassed 360 yards and four touchdowns. While his basketball season was lost from the injury, he will be ready for track where he will be running in the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m for Glades Central's powerhouse team that is coached by former Gator Ray McDonald, dad of UF defensive lineman Ray McDonald Jr.

The 5-10, and 190-pound do-it-all Berry comes from a very athletic family. His cousin Zadrian Dowdell plays basketball for Virginia Tech. Another cousin, Alton Dowdell, plays football at Jackson State and a third cousin, Timothy Sims, is a cornerback at Stanford.

Berry has always played running back but a lot of Division I schools are projecting him to wind up on the defensive side of the ball. His heritage indicates he could handle the switch. His dad, Andrew Berry, played two years at corner in the mid-eighties at the University of Miami. Either side of the ball is fine with Damien

"To tell you the truth, I can play anywhere," Berry said with confidence. "Most of the schools are recruiting me on defense and I'm fine with that. I grew up playing running back but I didn't like that everyone could hit me and I couldn't hit them back."

His exploits on the field have been hidden because of transfers and injuries, but he remembers fondly his junior varsity year at Palm Beach Lakes. It was by far his fondest memory of his football career.

"I was in the eighth grade and on junior varsity for Palm Beach Lakes," he said. "I had the best year of my life and scored five touchdowns in one game."

One thing that he is ready to conquer is the academic part of getting into a big time school. Glades Central Coach and former Gator defensive back Willie Snead is tutoring his football players in order to help them make it to the next level.

"He is great," said Berry. "He actually studied the ACT just to teach it to the players so we can all get prepared for the ACT. I am getting prepared to take it now and have a 2.3 GPA."

In the fall, Berry will be playing running back and safety at Glades Central. If he can produce there will be plenty more interested schools. Right now he has a favorite five, but knows that it can likely change. Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Texas sit at the top of his initial list. He talked about his favorites:

Miami: "It's not because my dad played there but I feel more comfortable at UM because I know most of the coaches. I love the atmosphere. I want to stay in Florida because I don't like the cold."

He really likes what he sees at Miami, and went on to say that if they are not telling him the total truth, he certainly has been fooled.

"If they are frontin', then they are doing a good job of it," he said.

Florida: "I like Doc Holliday at Florida. He's an awesome coach and I admire him. He recruited my dad back in the day when he was recruiting West Virginia. Doc called on day one and he told me he recruited my pops back in the day. He told me to tell my pops to call him, so they collaborated on the phone. Florida is recruiting me as a cornerback."

Rutgers: They came to Sun Coast and had a combine. They were explaining the program and I thought it was a nice program. Coach knew my dad, and made it feel like I could be close to home at Rutgers.

Notre Dame: "They are sending me a lot of letters. I like the school and the running game. They are recruiting me as a running back."

Texas: "When we went to Texas (he was in San Antonio for the US army All-American Combine) … it was really nice. Those people treated us like celebrities."

He does have one family member that is influencing him in one general direction. Surprisingly enough, it isn't his father. His uncle truly cares about what Berry does and also would prefer him to stay close to home.

"My uncle Reggie Hamilton is a Miami fanatic," Berry said. "I can call him right now and ask for a visor or gloves and he will go buy it right then. Every game I played he was there. When I got hurt, he wouldn't go to the games anymore. He is a warrior for me."

With one written offer from Rutgers and a verbal offer from West Virginia, Berry isn't ready to announce his intentions for any particular school just yet. He knows he would like it to be in Florida but he hasn't ruled out anyone.

"I want to be close to home," he said. "But I like all the coaches I have met so far."

DJ or D-Money, as Damian Berry is called by his teammates, is now ready to enter his senior season and make a name for himself. An injury-free season should create plenty of interest. He'll have plenty of motivation from a built-in support system at home.

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