Every once in awhile, a player comes along who makes such a positive impact on a program and a community that he somehow separates himself from everyone else already put on a pedestal by throngs of fans. Generally they distinguish themselves by not settling for just being great on the field; they carry that greatness around with them and everyone with whom they come into contact is affected. They don't just improve themselves, and they don't just make their teammates better like so many star athletes do. They make their fans and their communities better as well.
Around here, we've had the privilege of cheering for a lot of elite football players and of watching them continue their success in the NFL. A lot of those guys also do a lot of good things off the field, but a handful really distinguish themselves in positive ways. One of those guys is Eric Berry.
Berry's accomplishments in college are well documented here at Rocky Top Talk, but what makes him transcendent is that he continues to ooze greatness off the field. Soon after he became the highest paid safety in the NFL, he made good on his promise to completely refurbish Clarence Duncan Park, the place that provided him an alternative to trouble as a kid. The place had deteriorated due to a dispute over who was responsible for maintaining it, so Berry just decided he'd do it himself because he wanted to make sure that the kids from his hometown had the same opportunities that he did. But he didn't just donate a small portion of his windfall to the cause and delegate the details, he was involved every step of the way and made sure it happened like he envisioned it.
That's really just the beginning, though. Berry, who wears the #29 in honor of Inky Johnson, is lending his considerable marketing influence to his former teammate, who has written a book about his life, faith, and perseverance through the challenge of a football injury that deprived him of the use of one of his arms. And not only does Berry help his old neighborhood and his good friends, he gives all of himself to his fans. One fan on Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride last year wrote that Berry, having run out of gloves to give away, took off the shoes he was wearing and gave the kids those rather than send them away disappointed.
Influencing others, particularly children, in a positive way can effect real change. Being a good role model, staying out of trouble, and saying the right things as an elite athlete is a great way to do this. Donating a portion of your wealth to worthy causes is something more. But more still is personally interacting with folks. It isn't very efficient, and therefore the cost of doing it is high for extremely busy people, but the impact it likely made on those two kids can't be measured, and I can't tell you how glad I am that Eric Berry thinks it's worth it.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, go to www.NCAA.com/Buick.