Berry on Thorpe watch list

Tennessee safety Eric Berry was among 40 college standouts named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list Tuesday. The award is presented annually by the Jim Thorpe Association to the top defensive back in college football.

Berry, a sophomore from Fairburn, Ga., is one of eight players from the Southeastern Conference to make the list. And he joins fellow sophomore Tavious Polo of Florida Atlantic as the only two underclassmen candidates.

Berry earned Freshman All-America and second-team All-SEC honors last season while living up to his billing as one of the top newcomers on the college football landscape. He led all SEC freshmen in tackles with 86 and added a team-high five interceptions for 222 return yards. That return total was a school record and the second-highest figure in SEC history.

An aspiring dentist, Berry was recently named to the 2008 SEC Freshmen Academic Honor Roll.

In addition to his inclusion on the Thorpe watch list, Berry also appears on this year's Chuck Bednarik Award (top college defensive player) watch list and the Lott Trophy (college football's defensive IMPACT player of the year) watch list.

A "Screening Committee" of Jim Thorpe Association members grades the Thorpe Award candidates throughout the season on the basis of performance on the field, athletic ability and character. The committee meets on the first Monday in November to narrow the field to 10 or 12 semifinalists. Three finalists are slated to be named on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The list of finalists is then submitted to a national panel of sports writers, sportscasters, coaches and former players that votes to determine the winner. The finalists are invited to the ESPN College Football Awards Show, during which the winner is announced.

Former Vol and current Seattle Seahawks safety Deon Grant was selected as a finalist for the Thorpe Award in 1999. Three other former Vols were named semifinalists for the award: Dwayne Goodrich (1999), Andre Lott (2000) and Jason Allen (2004).

2008 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List: Asher Allen, Georgia; Nate Allen, South Florida; Antonio Baker, Louisiana Tech; ERIC BERRY, TENNESSEE; David Bruton, Notre Dame; Joe Burnett, Univ. Central Florida; Jairus Byrd, Oregon; Chris Chancellor, Clemson; Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech; Barry Church, Toledo; Patrick Chung, Oregon; Emanuel Cook, South Carolina; Vontae Davis, Illinois; Kevin Ellison, Southern California; Londen Fryar, W. Michigan; Courtney Greene, Rutgers; Michael Hamlin, Clemson; Nic Harris, Oklahoma; Victor Harris, Virginia Tech; Stephen Hodge, TCU; Brandon Hughes, Oregon State; Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State; Rashad Johnson, Alabama; Jordan Lake, Baylor; Trevard Lindley, Kentucky; Taylor Mays , Southern California; D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt; Mike Mickens, Cincinnati; William Moore, Missouri; Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina; Troy Nolan, Arizona State; Derek Pegues; Mississippi State; Tavious Polo, Florida Atlantic; Myron Rolle, Florida State; Corey Small, Florida Atlantic; Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest; DeAngelo Smith, Cincinnati; Walter Thurmond, Oregon; Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest; DeAndre Wright, New Mexico

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