“I feel like I already have my own name because my name’s not Eric,” he deadpanned, drawing guffaws from a circle of reporters.
After a brief pause, Berry added: “I feel like I’ll make my own path: Is it going to be positive or negative?”
Elliott and twin brother Evan, who also have a father (James) who played running back for Tennessee, are among six 2014 Vol football signees following distinguished relatives to The Hill. All gave essentially the same response when asked how much pressure they feel to live up to their famous kin: None.
“I really don’t feel pressure from my father’s standpoint, and I don’t think the other guys do, either,” said Neiko Creamer, son of former Vol defensive back Andre Creamer. “We’re just out here playing ball. It’s a new generation and a new playing style. The game is different, so we’re just out here balling.”
Dillon Bates, son of former Vol safety Bill Bates, echoed that sentiment.
“Really, there’s not a lot of pressure,” he said. “It’s more about everybody knowing what they have to do. Everybody knows they have to go as hard as we can, stick late in meetings, stick late in the weight room.”
Rather than a pressure point, Bates believes the lofty expectations for a signing class ranked No. 4 nationally by Scout provide a rallying point.
“Us guys in the freshman class all kind of stick together and kind of push each other,” he said. “We take it upon ourselves to be accountable to each other, and that will help the team goal.”
If anyone in the 2014 class should feel added pressure it is Todd Kelly, Jr. He’s the only legacy recruit saddled with the first and last names of a famous predecessor.
“Having the same name as my dad deals with itself,” he said matter of factly. “I’ve had it all my life, so I’m kind of used to it. I don’t know anything else, so I just live every day like I always have.”
|TODD KELLY JR.|
“It’s a blessing,” TK Jr. said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. I had the option to follow in his footsteps or not. Ultimately, I did, just because I feel it’s a blessing and I think I can do it.”
As if carrying the same name as his famous father isn’t enough, Junior has the double whammy of being a native Knoxvillian. He sees this as a positive, too.
“I’m the only local guy in the freshman class,” he said. “I went to school about 30 minutes away. I got to come to all of the home games last year, and it was a pretty cool deal. My dad’s right up the street, so whenever I need to talk to him or need support he’s always going to be there for me.”
Given their family ties to Tennessee football, the legacy recruits probably feel added incentive to upgrade a Vol program coming off four consecutive losing seasons.
“We want to bring the winning tradition back to Tennessee,” Kelly said. “It’s a special place. From freshmen to seniors we all have the same goal, which is to win ball games and make sure we keep the fans happy. It’s going to be a slow process, a learning process. We just got here. We’ve only been here about a month and a half. Ultimately, we just want to make this a better place.”
One signee believes head coach Butch Jones already has Tennessee on the upswing, even before most of the so-called “Legacy Class” shows up for preseason camp in August.
“Coach Jones already paved that path for us,” Creamer said. “We’re already traveling down a path to become the old Tennessee, (to bring back) as the people of Knoxville say ‘the good old days.’ I think we’re already headed toward that.
“I think we’re just a catalyst of that. We add extra insight by adding the tradition and the legacy to the class. That’s what fueled Tennessee in the past … legacy.”
Evan Berry video interview
Todd Kelly Jr. video interview
Vic Wharton video interview