Football fans know Kansas City Chiefs S Eric Berry because of his special skills and talents in the sport. But what they may not know is the Eric Berry off the field, and what he does outside of football—giving back to local communities and working with young football players.
Growing up as a kid in Fairburn, Ga., Berry saw himself playing football one day. After having to overcome a lot of obstacles at home while having the desire to one day play in the NFL, the former Tennessee Volunteer and his parents created a foundation where they could devote their time helping kids by upgrading shoddy football fields and giving them ample opportunity in their youth.
Berry recently held a football camp in Lee's Summit, Mo., and I had the opportunity to speak with the Chiefs star as he touched on his foundation and provided some thoughts on the upcoming season.
A 10-minute sit-down with Berry:
FV: It’s been awhile since you played. How does it feel to not only get back on the field and play football but to also see your teammates again?
EB: Just to see my teammates in that atmosphere, to be back out there on the field with them, back in workouts, meetings, that was something special. That is the biggest part I like about the game, the camaraderie. Just seeing how it translates on the field, a lot of those guys helped me out throughout my process and just seeing them and being out there with them is definitely a blessing.
FV: How is rehab going so far?
EB: Everything is good. Everything is 100 [percent]. Right now we are just taking it slow in OTAs just to make sure nothing crazy happens or any freak accidents happen, but everything is good. I’m just excited to be back out there.
FV: What are your thoughts on Romeo Crennel as the new Chiefs head coach for the 2012 season?
EB: I think it’s going to be good. Romeo is a fair guy and he keeps his word. We are going to play hard for him. The passion he brings to the game everyday, day in, day out, we feed off that. We try to bring that energy everyday and try to perform and do better everyday and get better.
FV: How do you think the free safety position has evolved in the last decade, and why are teams now coveting the position?
EB: I believe it has changed so much because of the impact you can have from that position. You are so involved in the game from both a pass and a run standpoint. Anyone that can have an impact on a game like that is going to be held to high standards. You have guys like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu who make big-time plays which can change the outcome of the game.
FV: The Chiefs field a new-look secondary loaded with talent. Stanford Routt was acquired in free agency and DeQuan Menzie added through the draft. How do you think this unit stacks up against the rest of the league?
EB: Right now we know there are a lot of good secondaries out there. We are just trying to focus on what we can do to get better. We’ve got some new, young guys coming in and we are trying to catch them up to speed. We are trying to make sure that we have depth, making sure the guys behind us know what is going on. We are going to keep pushing each other to raise the standard for our secondary.
FV: How pleased are you with how well the front office has worked this offseason to help the team excel in 2012?
EB: I trust those guys. They go in and study who they need to pick up and who is going to make us better. I let them do their job and whoever they bring in, it is our job to just make them feel at home. We also help to get them acclimated to the new system and make sure they are comfortable to where they can perform. That is what we try to do.
FV: In the summer of 2010, you began the Eric Berry Foundation. How did that idea come together?
EB: I had a lot of help with that. My team and my agency, A3, helped me out a lot with it—along with my mom and my dad. I know it was something I always wanted to do as well. I had the vision for it but I had a lot of people help me put it together and actually make it a real thing.
FV: Your foundation is committed to networking with partners in Kansas City, Mo. and Knoxville, Tenn., with all parties sharing the common goal of restoring parks and fields. What inspired you to establish it?
EB: Growing up in Fairburn [Ga.], right outside of Atlanta, my dad always made sure that the field was good enough to where we could have games and play on it. Just seeing what kind of stress that caused and how much he had to really put into it along with having two jobs and just trying to coach a team as well. And nowadays, with the type of stuff kids can get into with idle time and the type of trouble they can get into, I feel like if they have somewhere where they can have fun, they can stay out of trouble.
FV: You had the opportunity to give back by working with kids here at Lee’s Summit High School. What was the driving force behind putting this football camp together?
EB: It was fun! I wanted to do one in Kansas City because this is where I play now. I feel like this is one of my homes. I do one in Atlanta and I do one in Knoxville. This is my first one I did here. A lot of people had a lot of hands in putting this together. This is something I want to do for this community. I feel like this community is a part of me, so why not do a camp here?
FV: How can Chiefs and NFL fans give back and get involved with your foundation?
EB: My foundation's website is EricBerryFoundation.org. You can go there to get more information. This is just something that I hold dearly to my heart—giving back to the community.
Special thanks to Eric for this interview and to B/R AE Matt Birch for editing and helping with this piece! To see Eric and his foundation in action, watch the video below. And make sure to follow him on Twitter! (@StuntMan1429)