As smooth as his on-field demeanor seems, it's the confidence that Eric Berry exudes that's most noticeable when taking it all in. He doesn't flinch one bit when comparisons to NFL greats like Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu are made. Why should he? His own defensive coach, Monte Kiffin, told him he'd be stupid to come back to school. Few players can boast such well-rounded skill sets, which is why the University of Tennessee safety shouldn't slip far in the draft -- perhaps not past the Chiefs at No. 5.
Berry took to the podium at the NFL Combine on Sunday afternoon, and seeing as how he's a common mock draft entry for Kansas City, it only makes sense to bring you the full interview. Here's his responses:
Q: Is it your goal to slip into that No. 1 spot?
A: It is a goal but at the end of the day it's on the GMs and the guys that make the decisions. I really do feel that I'm supposed to be up there with those guys. I don't think something like a position should keep you from (being) up there. If you want to get into positions, I played every position in the defensive backfield in coach Kiffin's scheme. You could also say I played a little linebacker also. Free safety, strong safety, nickel corner for three years. Also I played true corner. I feel I bring a lot to the table and have a lot to offer to any team that picks me up.
Q: Are you the best player in this draft?
A: I would believe that.
A: It was a very tough decision. I really did enjoy my time at Tennessee. It's a very good university, a great university. The fans were very supportive. When I sat down and made the decision, I had to put my family pretty much before my school. Ever since I can remember, my mom and dad were always working. My dad worked two jobs. My dad just recently had heart surgery and I really just wanted him to be able to sit down and just enjoy life for a little bit. I felt I could do that by entering the draft and making that situation better.
Q: What did Monte tell you?
A: Monte told me I'd be a fool to come back.
Q: How much better of a player did he make you?
A: He made me so much of a better player just from the mental part of the game. He told us exactly why he was calling plays. He just didn't call plays and make us run it. He would say, 'OK, it's third and short and this is why we're calling this play against this team' or 'This is what you can expect from them.' So you kind of got into the mind of a defensive coordinator and kind of understood his philosophy of what he was doing.
Q: Who's the player you model your game after?
A: I've watched a lot of film on Ed Reed. I think a lot of my game is somewhat [similar]. I've also watched film on Troy Polamalu and also Sean Taylor and Bob Sanders. I like to take different things from different players because my role on defense has been so multiple. I've played every position in the defensive backfield so I would have to look at different guys that played those positions and kind of put it into one and make it kind of my own defensive player.
Q: Cornerback? Safety? Are you expecting teams to have different ideas on how to use you?
A: It just depends on the team and how they want to use me. I feel like I could do either one well. I have experience at both of them. I have tons of experience at both of them. I also played nickel. It just depends on what a team wants to do with me. It's just like coach Kiffin did with me this year. Coach Chambers, who's now the d-coordinator at LSU, had me back deep as a true safety a little more and playing less at the line of scrimmage.
Q: Could have you accomplished anything else at the college level?
A: The only thing that was left was that I really wanted to win an SEC championship. I definitely wanted to win a national championship. That record was still out there. I had seven more yards to break [the return yards record]. I just felt like teams were looking at me like I had the plague. There wasn't nobody throwing my way. I would always have to run across the field to make the tackle. I definitely got to the ball and that was the plus side of last year. And we did win so I was excited about that.
Q: Do you prefer to make a big hit or get an interception?
A: I would prefer to get an interception. A lot of people probably would holler about the big hit but you make the big hit and you're still on the field. That's another few snaps you're going to have to play. I'd rather get the interception and get the offense on the field so they can have a chance to score.
Q: What separates you from a guy like Taylor Mays?
A: I really haven't watched too much film on Taylor Mays. My understanding is he is a great athlete. I can only say about myself and what I bring to the table.
Q: How much are you motivated by negative things that are said and how much do you pay attention?
A: The thing I do before every season is pretty much go find the worst thing that's said about me. Whenever someone has something negative to say about me, I post it up in my bathroom. I look at it every day when I brush my teeth. I see things like I lack ball skills and things like that. You can look at my film and see. 14 picks in 3 years, 12 in 2 years. Last year I only had two just because teams were going away from me. I almost broke the NCAA return yards record. I was only 7 yards away from that.
So I really just wanted to come here and leave no doubt. That's pretty much my whole goal coming to the combine for everybody that has that little percentage of doubt in their minds that I'm not good enough to be number one. I'm trying to clear that up right now.'
Q: Did you do a lot of blitzing last year?
A: I did a lot of blitzing. I did a lot of blitzing the year before when I played nickel corner. It was kind of a weird position he had me in last year because I played John Lynch's position and Ronde Barber's. It was kind of like a mix of both of them. He had me blitzing a lot on third downs in man to man on the slot.
Q: Reed and Polamalu are game changers. Are you?
A: I definitely can. If you look at the game film and see the type of plays I've made in the past, I know that's college and we're going to the NFL, I feel like my work ethic can carry me on to the NFL and I'll be able to produce those same plays.
Q: What did Monte tell you about the NFL?
A: The thing he hold me was that it's pretty much easier than college, which shocked me. He said the reason was is that all your time is football. You don't have classes to go to and you don't have to worry about study hall, so you have more time to be in the film room and go over different adjustments and things like that. Really he just told me not to change anything and just make sure I keep working hard and I'll be ready for the NFL.
Q: Thoughts on Lane Kiffin leaving Tennessee after one year?
A: I really can't say anything about coach Kiffin because if you were at that school, you'd know that was his dream job. He's a California guy. He loves California. He really wanted that job just like I wanted this job, to go to the NFL. I left after my junior year to come do this and he left after one year to go do his dream job. It was kind of crazy how quick it happened that the job opening opened up but it's his dream. You've only got one shot at it and you've got to take advantage of it.
Q: In your interviews with teams, how will you sell yourself?
A: Pretty much the same way I did here. If you want a complete defensive back, a complete player as far as special teams. I played on kick return, kickoff, punt, punt return, all of those things. I definitely played free safety, strong safety, nickel corner, left and right corner. The list goes on. If you look at my resume, you see who I played against. I played against Percy Harvin. Picked off the number one pick last year, Matthew Stafford. Keep going down the list. Knowshon Moreno. So many things you could keep saying. I really want to sell myself as a good character guy off the field. I was a sophomore captain voted on by my teammates and my coaches. I was also a junior captain under a whole new coaching staff. That tells you a little bit about my character.
Q: Why are you the best defensive player in this draft?
A: I feel like I'm the best player in the draft because I bring a lot to the table. I can do pretty much anything the coaches ask me to. I can play free or strong, like I said, or nickel corner. You don't have to bring in the nickel package for me because I can cover up the slot based on regular personnel. There's pretty much a lot I bring to the table. I had three TDs in college. I also broke the SEC record for return yards that hadn't been broken I don't think for 30 years, 40 years. Also I almost broke the NCAA record for return yards after interceptions. I was only seven yards away from that. If you want to compare the big playmaking ability, I did it all throughout my college career. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was a starter for three years. Never missed a game due to injury. Never missed a snap.
Q: Would opponents tell you before a game you're not seeing any balls today?
A: Some guys did. You could see quarterbacks as soon as they walked up to the line, they pointed out 14, 14. It kind of got frustrating during the season. If they're not coming my way, somebody else is making the play and that's a good thing because we were winning games.