Nov. 23, 2009
Tennessee safety Eric Berry has his seat reserved for a return to The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show from Disney World near Orlando.
The Vols junior is a finalist for the second year in a row for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation's top defensive back. This year's event takes place Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Disney's BoardWalk. ESPN is televising the event live.
Berry also is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club to the nation's top overall defensive player. This year's dinner is the night of Dec. 7 from Charlotte's Westin Hotel.
Berry was a finalist for last year's Thorpe Award en route to making every major All-America team. This season, the Vols star has played a different role on Monte Kiffin's defense yet still leads his team in defensive big plays with 16. He has two interceptions for seven yards, three fumble returns for 48 yards, leads in special teams tackles with 13 and twice has been named Lott Trophy National Defensive Player of the Week.
"I've been coaching a long time and I've got to put Eric Berry right at the top," Kiffin said Monday. "Eric has the whole thing, he really does. He's got great ball skills; he's very, very smart - like a quarterback on the field. But probably more than anything else, players gravitate toward him. He is a great leader."
Joining Berry in Orlando this year are Joe Haden of Florida and Earl Thomas of Texas.
The Nagurski Trophy committee has narrowed its list to five finalists, with Berry joining Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer, Alabama tackle Terrence Cody, TCU end Jerry Hughes and Nebraska tackle Ndamukong Suh.