Last November the entire Kansas City Chiefs nation felt a tug at their collective hearts when it was announced Safety, Eric Berry, was suffering from Hodgkin Lymphoma. As quick as one of his bone jarring hits devastated opponents, Berry was thrust into a future uncertain on and off the field.
On Tuesday afternoon, Head Coach Andy Reid, told reporters Berry had finished the last of his three cancer treatments and would return to Kansas City to evaluate where he stands fighting this hideous disease.
This form of Cancer isn’t kind or forgiving, but if caught early, there is no question Berry could live the life he always dreamed for himself and the family he loves so much.
On the field, Berry is a fiery competitor. Off the field, he might be one of the nicest and purest of human beings I’ve ever been around in my professional writing career. With the news today the treatment phase has ended, Berry has to evaluate what’s ahead.
Assuming he makes a full recovery, and there have been zero indications to suggest he won’t, Berry has to take a hard look at returning to the football field. Though playing the game he loves so much won’t have anything to do with the cancer that’s temporarily shut down his NFL career, things are different now.
From all accounts, Berry has been wise with his money and has a solid family base in which to lean on in whatever he decides to do with the rest of his life. Cancer can be humbling. It does change people and forces them to revaluate their priorities.
I would love nothing more than to see Berry jump back into a Chiefs uniform. I think it would be a wonderful experience for the fans, and further for the man, who has battled this disease with grace, getting back on the field would continue a love affair he has with this city – that will never be severed.
We Midwesterners take pride as a passionate community. When one of our sports heroes fall victim to injury or sickness, we rally around them in a manner that can only be done within the Kansas City sports scene. In the aftermath of the initial diagnosis, the phrase ‘Berry Strong’ held the Chiefs nation together in support of their fallen hero.
That’s because Chiefs fans have a unique bond with one another that transcends generations. In particular, they show an unwavering respect for the men that don a Kansas City Chiefs jersey. They may judge them harshly on the field and over praise them at times when they don’t play their best, but it is a bond that can never be broken.
Berry is at the epicenter of that bond between player and fan. In their eyes, he is one of them. From the first day of training camp, when he carried his teammates shoulder pads and helmets, the man was always ready to play.
He knew, despite being a first round draft pick, nothing would be handed to him on a silver platter. Instead, he got his hands dirty and earned his Pro Bowls on the field, and the respect of his adoring fans, who parade about Kansas City wearing jersey #29 in honor of their hero.
Once the doctors reveal where he stands on the health meter, Berry has to consider this fact, even with a clean bill of health, sitting out the 2015 season and making sure the fight he just engaged still yields the passion to play football again.
I know Berry wants back on the field. However, second chances at life must be identified as a gift. Granted the circumstances dealt to Berry were cruel and mind-boggling for a person so young. Yet, in the eyes of the man dealing with this illness, I bet there wasn’t a single moment he felt sorry for his circumstances.
No matter what Eric Berry decides to do in the coming year, I hope should he return to the field, he plays his entire career in Kansas City. If he never steps foot on a football field again, I for one will consider him one of the brightest lights this organization has ever produced.
Photos Courtesy Denny Medley USA Today Sports Images