VFL Eric Berry Selected To 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class

IRVING, Texas – Two-time unanimous first-team All-America defensive back Eric Berry of Tennessee has been selected to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class, the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday.

Berry is one of 18 first-team All-America players and four standout coaches who were chosen to the 2023 class from a national ballot of 80 players and nine coaches from the FBS and 96 players and 33 coaches from the divisional ranks.

Berry and the 2023 class will officially be inducted during the 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Presented by Las Vegas on Dec. 5, 2023, at the ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

Berry becomes the 26th Vol to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame and the second in the last three years. Al Wilson was selected in 2021. Of the 26 inductees, 22 were enshrined as players and four as coaches. The 22 players represent the most of any program in the SEC and the eighth-most nationally.

Berry, a native of Fairburn, Georgia, etched his name among the all-time greats in Tennessee history with his defensive prowess over a three-year stretch from 2007-09 after an All-America career at Creekside High School.

Berry earned unanimous first team All-America honors in 2008, and he repeated the accolade in 2009. He is the only player in school history to achieve that feat twice. In 2009, he became the first player in school history to claim the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after being a finalist in 2008. 

A finalist for the 2009 Nagurski Trophy, he also twice claimed the Jack Tatum Award from the Touchdown Club of Columbus as the nation’s top defensive back. Berry helped Tennessee to two bowl berths, including a 21-17 win over Wisconsin in the 2008 Outback Bowl, which gave the Vols a final No. 12 ranking. A Freshman All-America selection and the SEC Freshman of the Year that fall, Berry helped the Vols bring home the SEC East title in 2007 with 86 tackles, most among SEC freshmen.

Berry finished his freshman campaign with five interceptions for 222 interception return yards, shattering Bobby Majors’ school record of 177 yards set in 1970. Berry would break his own return yardage record the following fall.

A three-time All-SEC selection, including first-team honors in 2008 and 2009, Berry was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after leading the conference with seven interceptions. Berry’s tenure in Rocky Top established him as the SEC’s all-time leader in career interception return yards (494) and single-season interception return yards (265 in 2008). He also holds the Vol record for career yards (35.3) per interception.

The two-year team captain culminated his career with 245 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, 14 interceptions, 31 passes defended, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He ranks tied for fifth in UT career picks.

Berry became the highest drafted Vol defensive player since Reggie White (1984) when he was selected with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by Kansas City. Berry played with the Chiefs until 2018, making five Pro Bowl appearances and earning first team All-Pro honors three times. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, he was named the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He finished his NFL career with 445 tackles – 377 solo – to go along with 14 interceptions.

Following his NFL career, Berry returned home to Fairburn, and he currently works as an entrepreneur. He established the Eric Berry Foundation in 2011, which provides safe environments for children to participate in sports, and he hosts annual youth football clinics in Atlanta, Kansas City and throughout Tennessee. He has donated more than $100,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and he installed field turf in Duncan Park (Ga.) where he learned to play football.

What They Are Saying About Eric Berry in the College Football Hall of Fame …

“Congratulations to Eric Berry! I am so proud of his great accomplishment of being inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. Eric earned his way into the Hall of Fame by his great ability to run, tackle, play the ball and return an interception, but even more so because of his character, work ethic, and love of the University of Tennessee and his teammates. Eric was the only player I had that started the first collegiate game of his career. He learned quickly, set a great attitude in the locker room and on the practice field. He was quiet and confident and let his actions speak for himself. He studied video, took to coaching exceptionally well and wanted to be the best player he could be every single day. His physical play was obvious, but Eric’s off-the-field leadership and the example he set as a man in our community endeared him to everyone who got to know him. Eric has wonderful parents that led the way for all of their boys! I know VFL dad, James, and mom, Carol, are proud of Eric as well. He joins a great group of Tennessee Volunteers in the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.”
– Phillip Fulmer, NFF and College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012

“On behalf of the entire Tennessee football program, we extend a huge congratulations to VFL Eric Berry on his selection into the College Football Hall of Fame. Eric’s legacy as the only two-time unanimous All-American in program history remains strong, and he serves an inspiration to so many. He continues a long-standing tradition of Vols enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations again to Eric and his family.”
– Josh Heupel, Tennessee Head Coach

Tennessee All-Time College Football Hall of Famers (year inducted)
Doug Atkins, T (1985)
Eric Berry, DB (2023)
George Cafego, QB (1969)
Steve DeLong, G (1993)
Doug Dickey, Coach (2003)
Bobby Dodd, QB (1959; elected as a coach at Georgia Tech in 1993)
Nathan Dougherty, T (1967)
Frank Emanuel, LB (2004)
Beattie Feathers, B (1955)
Phillip Fulmer, Coach (2012)
Herman Hickman, G (1959)
Bob Johnson, C (1989)
Chip Kell, G (2006)
Steve Kiner, LB (1999)
Hank Lauricella, TB (1981)
Johnny Majors, TB (1987)
Peyton Manning, QB (2017)
Gene McEver, HB (1954)
John Michels, G (1996)
Ed Molinski, G (1990)
Robert R. Neyland, Coach (1956)
Bob Suffridge, G (1961)
Reggie White, DT (2002)
Al Wilson, LB (2021)
Bowden Wyatt, E (1972)
Bowden Wyatt, Coach (1997) 

-UT Athletics

Eric Berry / Credit: UT Athletics

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