Eric Berry still a great ambassador for UT football - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Eric Berry still a great ambassador for UT football

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Kansas City Chiefs' safety Eric Berry takes a picture with campers at Boyd-Buchanan on Friday. Kansas City Chiefs' safety Eric Berry takes a picture with campers at Boyd-Buchanan on Friday.

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- If it wasn't for his size and notoriety, Eric Berry could easily blend right into his own football camp.

Dozens of kids ran through drills, skills and sprints Friday morning at Boyd-Buchanan, but the biggest smile belonged to the former University of Tennessee all-American safety.

"This is what it's about, man," Berry said during his 'Iron Sharpens Iron' football camp. "I never had anything like this when I was coming up. My first camp wasn't until high school, so that's why I always feel like such a kid at these things.

"I could put my name on it and not show up and not be a part of it, but why would you want to do that when you have the opportunity to come out here and have fun."

Now a fourth-year pro in the NFL, Berry still feels that way about every moment spent on the field.

He plays and practices because it's his passion, not because it's his paycheck.

"Honestly, I'm just excited to still be playing," said the modest Berry. "The biggest thing is, not that I ever did, but just don't take anything for granted because it could be gone."

He knows that from experience.

Berry was a top-five draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010 and earned a pro bowl selection with an impressive rookie season. But year number two was cut short in the first few weeks by a torn ACL.

"If you think you're working as hard as you can and you can't work any harder, you can always take it up a notch," Berry said. "My work ethic was already crazy, but after that happened I had to put in so much work to get back to where I am now, so my work ethic is even more crazy."

A solid support system has also been a big key.

Berry built quite a fan base, but more importantly a close-knit circle of friends, during his three years on Rocky Top. He still remains close with most of his UT teammates, including defensive back Prentiss Waggner.

"There's definitely a brotherhood. That's one thing we always preach at UT is Vol for Life, so we're trying to live up to that standard," said Waggner, who joined Berry's staff for Friday's camp in Chattanooga and Saturday's camp in Knoxville.

Waggner is trying to start his pro career with the Arizona Cardinals, but says he hears from Berry at least once a week. The Vols' struggles over the last few years have only made their Big Orange bonds stronger.

"You don't have your family up there with you when you're in college. You just have your teammates," Berry said. "We leaned on each other hard and that's one of the things we can take from Tennessee that's definitely a blessing."

Berry hopes his campers can take a few such lessons from their short time together.

His clinic was split into more than a half-dozen stations with athletes between the ages of seven and 18 going non-stop for nearly four hours.

He isn't afraid to push them hard because he knows it will increase their reward.

"All negatives are positives because you learn from your negatives," Berry said. "Just because someone says they can't do something or they fail one time, I want them to get up and keep trying to go after their dreams.

"I feel like if I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't be the player I am today, and I know y'all want to see the player I'll be this year."

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