For two seasons, Eric Berry was Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis’ gift from God – or in this case, Georgia.
The Fairburn-native finished his senior campaign at Creekside High with over 2,000 total yards and 22 touchdowns from the quarterback spot.
Ranked the No. 1 cornerback prospect in the nation, Chavis moved Berry to safety – where he has started every game of his career (26).
If you ask Berry, the transition was made easy for a number of reasons – from studying the playbook to studying under the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
“I watched a lot of film on other safeties,” Berry said. “I love Rashad Jones, Major Wright, Ahmad Black and guys like that. I get a lot of my game from everyone else.”
When it came to the playbooks, and coaching, Berry looked to Chavis. With the defensive headman now in Baton Rouge, Berry knows what the enemy got a hold of.
“They are getting a very intense coach,” Berry said. “[Chavis] will have those guys NFL ready. Look at the players he has coached in the past: Jason Allen, Jonathon Wade, numerous linebackers from Jerod Mayo to Robert Ayers. It is just the way he goes about coaching and how intense he is.”
Outside of being the mind behind the playbook – which held opponents to 16.8 points per game in 2008, the 11th best mark in the nation – Berry stressed that Chavis made his biggest impressions off the field.
“He is just a great coach, because he is the guy that you can go to his office and ask him about anything,” Berry said. “If you have something on your mind, [Chavis] will sit down and talk to you. That is all you can ask for in a coach.”
Though Chavis is no longer in town, Berry is still smiling.
For one, there is a new sense of team confidence, and the new staff, alongside the university, has launched a Heisman campaign for the All American safety. Second, because Chavis is wearing a headset once more.
“It was sad to see him go, but I was really happy to see him coaching again,” Berry said.
Of course, when asked if Death Valley was where he wanted Chavis on a Saturday night, Berry could only grin.
“I was kind of like, why couldn’t you go to the ACC or something?” Berry laughed. “Knowing coach Chavis, he loves the competition in the SEC. He would not rather be anywhere else.”