The face of UT football

Many high-profile athletes dismiss the idea that they are role models with a responsibility to set good examples for the young people who admire them.

Then there's Tennessee junior safety Eric Berry. Instead of merely tolerating his status as the face of Vol football and a role model for youngsters, he relishes it.

"I like that responsibility, to be honest with you," he said recently. "I like being the face of Tennessee but I like representing my school well. That's the main thing."

Being a role model for young UT fans comes easily for Berry. He was setting a good example for children long before he earned consensus All-America honors as a Vol last December.

"I've always had that role - being with my brothers and having to set an example for them - showing how to act, how not to act," said Berry, who has two younger brothers. "I had to grow up fast as a youngster, so I guess I'm kind of mature beyond my years."

Berry may be mature for his age but he still feels like a kid at Christmas when football season approaches each year. His face literally beams when he talks about the anticipation he feels.

"I can't think about the season too much or I start getting butterflies and my stomach will start turning," he said, grinning broadly. "You can tell it's getting closer because baseball is winding down a little bit."

After being limited by a shoulder injury in spring practice, Berry is especially eager for the 2009 season.

"I'm so excited for the season," he said. "It's been a long time (since he was able to go full-speed). I didn't play spring ball, so I'm very anxious just to get to camp.

"That's a big deal."

So is being a quality role model. Eric Berry understands that.


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