Eric Berry went through a lot during his career — working long hours constructing his game, becoming mentally prepared, and building his body up to be ready to play in the National Football league. Everything he had dreamed to have in his NFL career was there and then suddenly it wasn’t…
According to Michelle Bruton of Bleacher Report, Eric Berry “was the best defensive back entering the 2010 draft.”
He had everything going for him. He won the Jim Thorpe award in 2009, he was strong, athletic, and had tremendous leadership qualities. So much in fact, that his NFL profile highlighted it blatantly.
In his rookie season for the Chiefs, Berry was named defensive team captain by the coaching staff. In his first game as a captain, he caught his fourth interception on the season. He had such an amazing rookie year that he was voted to be in the NFL All-Star Game.
In the 2011 NFL season the Chiefs went 10-6, their best record since 2005, and much of that was to be accredited to Berry. Sadly, during their home opener against the Bills, on the third play of the opening drive Eric tore his ACL. For the rest of the season, he was placed on injured reserve. But hold on, this is where the story begins to get interesting…
The next year, Berry came back looking as tough and healthy as ever. He played all 16 games and had 33 stops and 10 tackles for a loss. And Eric found himself playing in the Pro-Bowl again!
The 2013 season seemed to be the best season for Berry yet. He ended the year with 66 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10 deflected passes, and three interceptions (two of which were pick sixes). At this point in his career Eric Berry was probably thinking that it was all downhill from there — boy do I wish that this was true. The biggest challenge was yet to come.
The 2014 NFL season approached and Eric Berry was looking to have the season of his life. In the Chiefs’ season opener agains the Titans, he played in all 82 defensive snaps and had a career-high of 14 tackles and a deflected pass. Sadly, Kansas City still lost 26-10.
The following game the Chiefs played was against arguably their biggest rival, the Denver Broncos. In that game, Berry only played 16 defensive snaps before he received a high-ankle sprain. This would mean that he would not play in another game for seven weeks. What a bummer!
Eventually in November, Berry had come back and was playing at full force — at least, people thought that he was playing at full force. Pretty soon, the rockstar safety began to feel some pain in his chest and had the team physicians X-ray it. The results were negative. But unfortunately after more tests, the physicians found a mass in his chest. Pretty soon after, they diagnosed it as Lymphoma. This was announced to the public via Eric’s agent:
After Berry had spoken with his team and released a statement to the public, multiple other teams rallied around him to keep fighting:
After some more testing had been done on the Chiefs’ safety, doctors came to a conclusion that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This was bittersweet news. It was bitter because it meant that Berry most definitely had cancer; however it was also sweet because Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has been easier to treat than other cancers in the past.
Eric had to stay in Atlanta for chemotherapy treatments, but it sure didn’t mean that his teammates didn’t still express their support to his recovery. After Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston picked up his league-leading 18th NFL sack of the 2014 NFL season, he lifted up his shirt that had a 29 under it (29 is Berry’s number):
After lots of treatment and five months had passed, Terez A. Taylor of the Kansas City Star was told by Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid that:
“Eric is doing well, he’s going to get his big end-of-the-school (year) exam down here. He’s been through all the treatments, so now the doctor is going to sit down with him and go over exactly what the results of all that are.”
Then on June 22, 2015 Eric Berry was told that he was cancer-free. There was just one problem that many people were wondering — did Eric lose too much weight during his chemotherapy treatments?
The answer is no. Actually, Berry gained weight. In his continued fight during that time, Eric had made sure he did five pushups a day.
Berry also chose to have an IV for his chemo therapy so that he could still workout during the time.
Because of this, on July 29, 2015 Eric Berry was cleared to practice. After offseason training with the team, he made his way back to the NFL and played in both the preseason and the regular season. On top of playing in every single game, Eric ended the year with 61 total tackles and two interceptions (Pro Football Reference).
Now, I know that there have been a lot of amazing comeback stories in sports in the past ten years. But not one has played at an all-pro level, left the league to fight cancer, and in the same year came back to the league in as good of shape as ever while being selected to be in the Pro-Bowl again. This is absolutely unheard of.
It also is why Eric’s journey is the greatest comeback story of our decade…
By 2012champs – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73302119