Chiefs Safety Eric Berry Man of the Year Longform
  • Add to Collection
  • Tools Used


  • About


    Longform highlighting the top five moments of Eric Berry's triumphant return to the field during the 2015 NFL season after being diagnosed with c… Read More
    Longform highlighting the top five moments of Eric Berry's triumphant return to the field during the 2015 NFL season after being diagnosed with cancer. Read Less
Written by Chiefs Reporter, Pete Sweeney
About 20 to 30 Chiefs gather on the field in a huddle before a game. The scene is all too familiar to the diehards of Kansas City.
One of the Chiefs stands in the center, aggressively waving his hands at the rest.
He is wearing the number 29 and he is screaming.
''Ya’ll boys ready?''
They answer in unison, ''Hell yeah!''
Not loud enough. He screams again.
''Ya’ll boys ready?''
They answer, ''Hell yeah!''
Still not loud enough.
''Ya’ll boys ready?''
''Hell yeah!''
Eric Berry has done his part, as he does every Sunday. Now, the team is ready. Now, he feels they are poised to leave it all out on the field, and they feel it too.
When Hodgkin’s lymphoma took Berry away from the Chiefs on November 24 of last season, it didn’t only take a man. It robbed Kansas City of their spirit, their vigor and their inspiration.
Berry, a former first-team All Pro (2013), could make the Chiefs a better football team without even taking the field. Those intangibles that you can’t exactly describe on paper, you know, the ones that football scouts talk about? Those are what Berry is made up of, and even in this dire situation, they reigned true down to the moment he was informed of his diagnosis.
Berry reacted to hearing he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma by asking head trainer Rick Burkholder if he could play through treatment. He asked Andy Reid as well.
Once they and the rest of the medical staff explained to him that was not an option, he accepted what lay before him.
Adversity wasn’t something completely unfamiliar to Berry at that moment, as he had seen it in his own experience.
In 2010, knowing he would be drafted to the NFL, he began a life of community involvement.
"I wanted to give back because that's just what my family did,” he said. “That's what they always talked about, my parents, and I just decided to start with Fairburn because that's my home.”
Berry revitalized Clarence Duncan Park in Fairburn, Georgia, and with it, began Eric Berry Youth Football Camps.
He started a project in Uganda in 2012 and 2013.
"We purchased medical vans with doctors and provided health care for the people there,” he said. "The village actually had only two latrines for 250 people. Now we're working to get 10 latrines.”
Before leaving to undergo cancer treatment, Berry stood in front of his teammates inside the locker room.
According to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, he “said it beautifully.”
“I’ve got a new opponent, and that’s what I’ve got to deal with.”
Then he left for Atlanta to fight for his life.
Nearly a year after making his locker room speech, Berry stands as Kansas City’s 2015 nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Presented annually since 1970, the award is granted to the player who demonstrates outstanding contributions to society off the field while handling himself in an exemplary fashion in uniform. The award's panel of judges includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Anthony Muñoz, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King and Thomas Davis, last year’s recipient of the award.
The Chiefs, in their history, have had a league-high (tie-Bears) five winners of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: Willie Lanier (1972), Len Dawson (1973), Derrick Thomas (1993), Will Shields (2003) and Brian Waters (2010).
If Berry were to win, the Chiefs will stand alone as having more winners than any franchise in the NFL.