Berry twins highlight UT's long list of football legacies

Friday, July 25, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 30

Elliott and Evan Berry didn’t need a tour guide when they arrived for summer school at the University of Tennessee in June.

The twin brothers and freshman football signees from Fairburn, Ga., had been to the UT campus countless times.

They have seen highlight films of their father, James, who played running back for the Vols from 1978-81. They watched their older brother, Eric, during his days as an All-American safety at UT from 2007-09, before his current career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Elliott Berry even spent the spring break of his sixth grade year on UT’s campus with Eric, attending classes, going to workouts, eating in the training room and doing everything his older brother did.

“I kind of knew my way around when I got here,” Elliott says.

UT wasn’t a surprise destination for the Berry twins. They were naturals to follow their father and brother to UT.

“To be honest, I kind of always felt I would come to Tennessee,” Elliott Berry explains. “I just wanted to make sure I was 100 percent sure this was where I wanted to be, but I was always kind of sure this was where I was going to end up.”

The Berry twins committed to UT coach Butch Jones last November and chose the Vols over offers from Auburn, Georgia, Clemson, LSU and South Carolina, among other schools.

They will be the first to say they were a package deal. They are rooming together as UT freshmen.

“We never thought about splitting up (for college football),” Evan adds.

“We wouldn’t put that kind of stress on my parents, to come see him play one week, and come back and see me play the next week, so we always said we were going to stay together.”

The twins are two of the six members of Jones’ “legacy” class of 2014, players whose fathers, brother or uncle played football or basketball for the Vols.

There is plenty of hype surrounding the 2014 signing class, one Vols’ fans hope can right a once-proud program that has endured four consecutive losing seasons and five in the last six years.

Evan Berry says the lofty expectations for the class don’t bother him.

“I kind of embraced it,” he says. “It’s always good to have a milestone in front of you and great goals ahead of you, especially that’s made by your family members. It’s just an overall good experience to have goals to reach.”

Elliott Berry, left, and Evan Berry, right, are twin brothers and freshman football signees from Fairburn, Ga. Their father, James, center, played running back for the Vols from 1978-81. They watched their older brother, Eric, during his days as an All-American safety at UT from 2007-09, before joining the Kansas City Chiefs.

-- Submitted Photos Courtesy Of Donald Page/Utsports.Com

The Berry twins aren’t identical, nor were their talent evaluations among recruiting services.

Evan Berry was a consensus four-star defensive back, while Elliott was a three-star outside linebacker, safety and athlete.

Neither wants to spend his UT career in the shadow of his father and brother, or trying to reach their status in Vols’ lore.

“No, that’s not really on my mind,” Elliott says. “I’m just trying to do the best I can do.”

Evan adds, “I try not to think about it. I just do what I can do.”

They do pick Eric’s brain on occasion.

“We probably talk about two or three times a week,” Elliott notes. “We don’t really try to bug each other too much. We’ve got a lot to do. He’s working out to get ready for his (NFL) season, and I’m getting ready for mine, so we just kind of talk when we can.”

Evan won’t forget some words of advice from Eric.

“I talked to Eric really before I came here,” Evan says, “and he just gave me the basics of college, keeping up with the school work, staying on top of your plays, and really just being smart because it’s the real world now and you just have to be smart and make smart decisions.”

Each of the Berry twins chose a UT jersey number with some history in mind.

Elliott will wear the No. 41 as a tribute to his brother, an inverse of the No. 14 worn by Eric Berry while at UT.

Evan will wear No. 29, a tribute to Eric’s No. 29 Chiefs jersey and the number worn by “Inky” Johnson, who suffered a career-ending injury in 2006 that left his right arm paralyzed.

“I think every day that people would love to be in my shoes right now, to be playing at the University of Tennessee, and I just want to show my respect for (Johnson),” Evan explains.

“I didn’t really want anyone wearing that number and not really knowing the meaning behind that number, so I decided to take that number and wear it and represent it.”

Dave Link is a freelance journalist living in Knoxville.