Eric Berry: The True Recipient of the Thorpe Award

Matt KearneyCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2008

Many Tennessee fans remember 1997 and the obvious mistake of Charles Woodson receiving the Heisman instead of Peyton Manning.  In 2008, yet another Vol has been snubbed, and his name is Eric Berry.

This is not a slight on Malcolm Jenkins, who received the Thorpe Award.  Jenkins is a consensus first round pick, and probably a top 10 pick in next year's draft.

He intercepted 11 passes in his four-year career at Ohio State, three of which came in 2008, and has distinguished himself as an elite cornerback.

Despite Jenkins' accomplishments, the Thorpe Award should have undoubtedly gone to Eric Berry.  Berry is arguably the best defensive player in the country, and not many other players can be considered part of the argument.

Take a look at what Eric Berry did this year.  He intercepted seven passes, tied for the most in Division I (oops...I meant FBS).  Three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

His returns totaled 265 yards, which equals the single season record for the SEC, and gave him 487 for his career, also an SEC record.  He'll easily break the national record next year, which is a little over 500 yards.

Eric also knows how to lay the wood. Just ask All-American Knowshon Moreno after Berry knocked him out of the game for a series following a hit in a game against Georgia.  Berry recorded 72 tackles in 2008, 8.5 for losses.

To add to his accomplishments this season, Eric Berry was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.  By the way, the defensive-oriented SEC had three teams in the top 10 nationally in total defense.

This begs the question, why didn't Eric Berry win the Thorpe Award, then?  How does a player with more tackles, more tackles for loss, over twice as many interceptions, over 200 more return yards off interceptions, and three returns for touchdowns lose out to Jenkins?

Honestly, only two explanations exist.

One explanation is that Eric played on a bad team.  Tennessee in 2008 definitely underachieved, and finished fifth in the SEC East.  They went 5-7, and had a terrible offense, though UT had a very stout defense.  Ohio State went 10-2 and is headed for a BCS bowl game.

The second reason Eric Berry didn't receive the Thorpe Award comes up almost yearly.  Award recipients seemingly always are juniors or seniors.  This would explain why Jenkins, a senior, won the award instead of the Vol safety, a sophomore.

Neither one of these reasons should be included in the voting process.  Awards should be, and quite frankly are intended to be, performance-based.

Based on performance, please find any argument that Eric Berry was not the best defensive back in the country.  Before you research, let me help, there isn't a legitimate argument anywhere.

Berry will probably win the Thorpe Award next year, when he will be a junior and probably part of a better team.  However, just because he wins the award next year, doesn't mean he didn't deserve it this year.

Congratulations, Eric, you are the true Thorpe Award winner, and everybody, including Ohio State fans, know it.