Eric Berry: Deserving Of Every Accolade

John WhiteCorrespondent IIINovember 21, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Since everyone else is chiming in on this I thought I might too. Yes, I know it's shameless but gosh how we love this guy. I couldn't resist.

We all held our breath when he took the field for the first time against Cal back in 2007. We were on the edge of our seats as Bears from sideline to sideline cleared the cobwebs of a pintsized concussion. "How can somebody that small, hit so hard?" was the question that left everybody scratching their heads; it appeared Phil had yet discovered another phenom to wear orange. He immediately showed the promise of one of those athletes that you hitched your wagon to, and everyone was more than happy to ride with glee yelling "GO VOLS" as we bounced along an uncertain Volunteer future.

I was won over to the Berry side when those keen eyes and nimble fingers made the first grab that really mattered in my eyes.

 Another phenom down in the swamp was about to throw another touchdown and score on us again; Tebow stood erect and lobbed a bullet towards the endzone but Berry was there where his receiver should have been. I'm sure there have been hosts of players that can and have run faster, but on that day I think he was the fastest by far. The only Gator to have a chance at stopping him was Tebow, and when the time came his chance was a sportscaster's illusion, he outran his shadow on that interception—95 yards, the fourth longest in Tennessee history, it wasn't the longest but I believe it was the "prettiest" return I've seen to this day. We lost that day but Berry played every play like we had a chance to win until the clock ticked zero, with all of the sportsmanship you expect from talented players.

Truth be known he has played every game that way, recording at least three tackles per game which is no small feat for any player. I don't think there is a single news source, player, coach or statistical entity that can say anything negative for his collective ability. I will point out that everytime he was in a position to make a play and didn't strike gold he was passively criticized by anouncers and even their remarks were markedly kind, I believe they didn't want the foot-mouth extraction on the very next play. He is that good and deserves that kind of respect. Which brings me to my next publicly shared epiphany.

He deserves to go first round in the draft—he has earned that and more. He has been an unselfish player his entire career and more than fullfilled all our expectations. I sincerely believe that had someone else been running the defense he would have already broke the NCAA record for return yardage and set the bar high enough that decades again would pass before being broken. It's not because Monte Kiffin's defense isn't sound, it's because Monte is spreading Berry in areas that he knows are weak which makes him watch the ground more than the sky, he can't be everywhere at once when he's defending two sometimes three positions. Again he is unselfish and does what's best for the team but still, if you don't want to be in ESPN highlights don't even throw in his direction and never ever ever bobble a pass, or juggle the ball, or single-hand the ball, or..... well you get the picture.

As I was saying he is deserving of many things, including a little silence from the fans as well. He is already torn as to what to do. There is no shadow of doubt regarding him knowing the love the faithfuls have for him. Since 2007 he has been our Manning surrogate and he knows that, which makes it that much harder for him to make a decision. We all know the risk, which is high that he could be injured and never play again (remember Iroqouis "Inky" Johnson?). The guilt would be the same had Peyton's injury in his last bowl game been more severe, we still held our breath though. I know we are all going to be watching from the corner of our eye when the draft arrives. We know he'll go first round, hopefully 1st or 2nd pick. Then there is the other option which we all want; we're greedy with young men like him. The question remains as to how we'll feel should he decide to finish school and how his health will be three games into next season. Will it be elation or remorse? Do we gamble with such a precious resource ?  I'll go ahead and say what I believe you are thinking. His number should be getting enshrined right now in one of those fancy polished wood frames. You know the ones I'm talking about right? The ones they'd hang beside Peyton's and Reggie's.