It took 15 minutes for Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris to learn what SEC quarterbacks have known for three years: You don’t challenge Tennessee safety Eric Berry. The two-time All-America was spinning through the NFL’s speed-dating program two months ago at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where prospective draft picks are ushered from room to room for interviews with interested teams. When Berry stepped through the door at the Bucs’ suite in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Morris was eager to test the youngster’s understanding of the Tampa Two defense that both he and Berry had learned from respected coordinator Monte Kiffin.
As Berry stood at the whiteboard, marker in hand, Morris called defensive plays in the Tampa Two scheme and asked Berry to draw up the formation and explain each player’s responsibility. If the engagement had been a Little League game, umpires would have invoked the mercy rule. Berry answered each question without hesitation or error.
Morris smiled and nodded—but refused to give up. He called out "China," a coverage in which Berry functions as an extra linebacker. Then he asked what Berry would do if the guard pulled away from him on a run play and if the play came right at him. Again Berry responded flawlessly.
But when Morris asked Berry about his assignment if the center released to the second level of the defense immediately after the snap, Berry hesitated. It appeared Morris had finally stumped Berry’s prowess both in coverage him. "Monte didn’t teach you about that one, did he?" the coach said.
"It kind of threw me off," Berry recalls. "It took me about five seconds to realize it was a zone play, and I told him I’d have to [move parallel with] the fullback and try to keep outside leverage on him, because you don’t know which hole the running back is going to hit. I guess he expected me not to know that, because he looked kind of shocked."
Thus begins a fantastic feature on Eric Berry in the current edition of Sports Illustrated. If you can, pick up a copy and read the whole thing. You can't get enough Berry. You know it, and I know it.
So here's more, a video from NFL.com, and bonus, video of Eric's younger brothers Evan and Elliot, who, when he speaks, sounds like a tornado. Which we like, because tornadoes destroy stuff, and that's just what we want 'round here.
By the way, Berry and Dan Williams will be two of under 20 players to actually attend next week's NFL Draft as opposed to just watching their fate unfold on TV. Here's to hoping both of them get their just reward. Sounds like live thread material. Who's in?