After listening to Berry talk to reporters after he'd concluded his first practice in a Chiefs uniform on Saturday, I could not believe the words that came out of his mouth. After his arrival late Friday night to the team complex in St. Joe, he stood in front of his new teammates and apologized for missing the first practice earlier in the day.
I might be somewhat skeptical of any player that humble, but I'm here to tell you that Berry is the real deal.
Shortly after the NFL draft, I spoke with several people associated with the University of Tennessee. There wasn't anyone who had a negative word to say about Berry. In fact, the praise was so genuine that I felt like they were referring to someone in their very own family.
That genuine respect and love for another human being brings to light some memories of my youth. Growing up around Hank Stram's Super Bowl team, many of his players were as humble as Berry. Many of them are now in the Hall of Fame, including team founder Lamar Hunt – perhaps the most humble of them all.
Berry had to pay his rookie dues by carrying Dwayne Bowe's equipment.
Justin Olson/Warpaint Illustrated.
Berry is a throwback to the days when football players put on their pads, worked hard from whistle to whistle, and wanted to be the perfect teammate in every way. The Glory Days Chiefs worked jobs on the side and practiced football in the afternoon. They did whatever they could to provide for their families, keep food on the table, pay the pills, all the while playing the most violent gladiator sport on earth. They didn't have the opportunity to earn the kind of dollars that Berry did on Friday.
So the 5'10" safety heads to the NFL with a pocket full of cash that would last most people a hundred lifetimes. But the look on his face gave me the impression that Berry intends to do a lot of good with his sudden wealth. The fact that he's so humbled and dedicated to football at the ripe old of age of 22 tells me all I need to know about the young man. He will be an ambassador for not just the Chiefs, but for the entire Kansas City community.
When he jettisoned onto the field Saturday morning, he was immediately put in the hot seat in one-on-one drills against the wide receivers. It looked like he'd been on the field for weeks. It was mind boggling how quickly he has adapted to the defense.
But it was his stance in the Chiefs brawl that said more about Berry than anything he might be able to do on the field. In the middle of the battle between tackle Branden Albert and linebacker Demorrio Williams, Berry made sure quarterback Matt Cassel was pushed out of the way. That's a champion, folks.
Berry is the rarest of young men who has a far greater understanding of the team concept than players that have been in the league for years. Many veterans can learn something from Berry.
Todd Haley said after the NFL Draft in April that when he and General Manager Scott Pioli talked about who to select with their first pick, they kept going back to Berry.
By the afternoon Berry and fellow sfety Kendrick Lewis were running with the first team defense.
Justin Olson/Warpaint Illustrated.
Today, in less than five minutes in front of the media, he spoke quietly but with confidence, all the while knowing that nothing has been given to him by his head coach or his teammates. He has to go out and win a job.
And when his interview ended, he tried to sign every autograph he could despite the efforts of the Chiefs PR staff to get him to a defensive meeting with his coaches.
It's refreshing that he already feels an obligation to the fans. That also tells me that money won't change Berry whatsoever.
The boy who grew up in Fairborn, Georgia, went to the University of Tennessee, and landed in the laps of the Kansas City Chiefs has already done everything the right way to get here.
Berry won't rest on his laurels. He won't stop working hard on the field. He'll continue to tirelessly study game film to gain the edge on Sunday's match-ups until the Chiefs win in a Super Bowl.
And when that happens, he'll wake up the very next day and work twice as hard as everyone else so he can show his teammates how to win another one.