|04-22-2010, 11:52 PM|
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Babb: Berry sinks his teeth into everything he does
Berry sinks his teeth into everything he does
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star
Robert White couldn’t do anything to scare the kid away. Root canal? No problem. Extraction? Easy. Nothing could turn Eric Berry’s stomach. The messier the dental procedure, the closer Berry leaned in.
The kid wanted to be a dentist. He was a senior at Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga. He approached his dentist and asked to hang around.
No problem, White told him. But be on time. Show you want it. And don’t have a weak stomach.
“I’ve had assistants faint on me,” White said Thursday, hours before the Chiefs drafted Berry, a safety from Tennessee, at No. 5 overall. “He was right over my shoulder, watching everything I did.”
According to those who know Berry best, it’s the kid’s commitment that leaves the most memorable impression. When he decided to pursue dentistry, he talked White into an internship, leaving school Monday through Thursday to work a shift at White’s office. He’d observe and learn, and when White needed to shed his shadow, he’d tell Berry to take a break. Sit down, for goodness’ sake. Berry would take a seat, then hop up and head toward another room to watch a hygienist at work.
“Every day,” White said Thursday. “He did what was asked of him, sometimes above and beyond.”
That’s what the Chiefs are counting on. They defied conventional wisdom Thursday to draft a safety in the top five, a decision mostly unheard of until NFL teams began ramping up their secondaries to slow pass-heavy offenses. The Chiefs needed safety help, and that made them willing to gamble. But Berry’s intangibles — determination, character, intelligence — made it a bet too promising to pass up.
“It just became more and more clear,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said Thursday night, “that this was the fit for us. For a lot of different reasons.”
Here’s one of those reasons: Berry impressed Kansas City’s coaches when they kept hearing that Berry didn’t just wear a Volunteers helmet — he helped shine them, too. Berry would creep into the equipment room on Friday nights to help managers polish helmets.
Someone asked him about that Thursday night. Berry responded as if it were as common to him as tying the laces on his cleats.
“The managers that we have on our team, they work so hard,” Berry said. “I just wanted to put myself in their shoes so I can appreciate what they do for me.”
If the Chiefs were influenced by Berry’s off-field deeds, they wouldn’t be the first.
Kevin Whitley was a first-year coach at Creekside High when Berry was a freshman. Whitley kept hearing about this kid who was different. He was determined. Talented. Special.
Sure, Whitley thought. There’s always someone when you take a new job. That’s one of the ways they get you to sign the contract. Then during Creekside’s first game, Berry intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Whitley can still see it in his mind. He can see Berry flipping the ball to a referee, too. No celebration. Just business.
“This kid right here is going to be special,” Whitley remembered thinking. “It just sunk in.”
Berry kept getting better, and he kept doing things his way. When Whitley asked him to take five recruiting visits, Berry declined. His dad, James, went to Tennessee. Eric was going to Tennessee, too. He would study dentistry and play football.
When Berry was flagged his freshman season for pass interference, he vowed then that he wouldn’t make a habit of it. In more than two seasons before he left Knoxville, he was never penalized again.
“I didn’t like putting my team in bad situations,” Berry said.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The kid decides something, and he pours himself into it.
Berry finished his dental internship four years ago, and more than it leaving an impression on him, Berry left an impression on White. Berry ended his semester with White promising to help guide him through dental school. White even suggested that they someday form a joint practice. This conversation was between an experienced dentist and a 17-year-old.
White said it wasn’t long after Berry went to Tennessee that it was clear the kid wouldn’t need dentistry to make a living. But just in case, White said the promise to form a joint practice someday is still good.
Berry said Thursday night that he could live with putting dental school on hold.
“I’m fine with it,” Berry said, his voice still hoarse from celebrating.
The things Berry has done left impressions on the Chiefs. They gambled on him. If you ask those who have taken chances on him before, they say that whatever the kid does, he doesn’t do things halfway.
“I hear about top picks coming out, they end up being a bust because they don’t put the time in,” White said. “Same thing in dentistry: I know people who purchase practices or have practices, and those practices fail because they don’t put the work in. The patients know. The patients aren’t stupid.
“It takes more of that dedication than the actual talent. You have to have an aptitude. That’s what makes a good dentist. He was the best one we’ve had come through here. He would’ve made a great dentist.”
|04-22-2010, 11:52 PM||#2|
Like I woke up in Wonderland..
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|04-22-2010, 11:55 PM||#4|
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Well, the opponents will be glad to hear that he's a dentist, so they can have him stick their teeth back in their mouths after getting blown the **** out.
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