Eric Berry taking advantage of new life given to him
GLENDALE, Ariz. – One of the most inspirational stories you’ll ever see or hear about played out at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday night, with Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry returning to action for the first time since he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back on Nov. 24, 2014.
247 short days later, Berry was cancer-free, and he was back at Chiefs training camp for day one of practice.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid wasn’t going to leave Berry out against the Cardinals. Berry had been playing so well in camp leading up to their departure for Arizona, so he decided that Berry would play, and he’d be one of the captains.
Berry ended up playing eight snaps against Arizona. Reid admitted that he wasn’t solely focused on Berry, and what he’d do, but he thought he did “a pretty nice job,” and he was happy to see Berry back in a competitive setting.
“It was great to have Eric (Berry) back. He was fired up,” Reid said. “He was out of control in the locker room before the game. He was just excited. He was just ready to go. I’m very happy for him.”
There were so many things that were taken away from Berry, other than his health when he got the diagnosis. All the things that he associates with football were erased, but they all came rushing back once the team touched down at Sky Harbor Airport.
“Just the smell of the grass, the crowd, the food,” Berry said. “I was just taking everything in, being in the locker room with my teammates and everything from greeting the security at the airport, I missed stuff like that.”
“Just being able to do it and be out there with my teammates and having my mom (Carol) on the sideline, that was just great,” Berry said. “She was there from day one. We went through a lot. She saw me at my worst, and when we talked about this moment, and I think that’s why she came to tears like that (when they hugged before the game), because we talked about it a long time ago. I told her I would be back.”
“I broke down on the plane on the way out here, it just all hit me,” Berry said. “I don’t think anybody can understand the road I took and the sacrifices I had to make just to be able to experience the things I mentioned to you at the beginning. You take the little things in, and appreciate everything about the game, and everything that surrounds the game. It is just a blessing to be out here, and I am going to take advantage of it.”
Berry’s mother, like he said, was his rock. When he was in the pits of despair, she was there for him through it all. Them being able to stay together as one through one of the toughest things a human being could experience in a lifetime is a true testament to the word family.
“She was telling me I would be back and everything would be ok. She comforted me in a time when I needed to be comforted and she was very strong,” Berry said. “A lot of people talk about the person going through the situation, but they don’t talk about the caregiver, and I can see how stressful it was for her and how it weighed on her. She was going through things outside of my deal, so for her to put everything on the side and just deal with me, it was a blessing to have her on my side.”
Berry cared not one iota about it being a preseason game with the Cardinals. To him, everything counts, even when others think they don’t.
“Practices count, meetings count, walkthroughs count,” Berry said. “I have been put in a position where I wished I could just come out and watch my teammates. The fact that I am out here playing with them in this situation, I take … everything is a blessing. I love football.”
Berry knew all along that this trip to Arizona to face the Cardinals was going to be the trip where he was going to be suiting up and playing, and not standing on the sideline in civilian clothes. That part of it never factored into the equation for Berry.
“I talked about this a long time ago. It wasn’t a thing when I woke up and went to camp. I was preparing for this,” Berry said. “I was working out through chemotherapy. The decision to get the IV over the port, I made the decision for this moment, even though it was a dangerous decision. This is what I have been waiting for. You work so hard for something and give it everything you got for moments like this, and I won’t let it go.”
Berry’s stepped on the field on the very play where Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer rifled a pass to running back Andre Ellington, who then burst 57 yards down the field. He wasn’t involved in the play, but he was out there, but he kind of wasn’t.
“It was crazy because I realized I wasn’t running. I was just like, “Oh my (goodness) I am back on the field, let’s go,’” Berry said. “Then I was like, ‘Dang, ok, we need to stop them.’ It was amazing to be on the field, just a great feeling.”
The outpouring of love and support for Berry has been massive throughout the entire ordeal and beyond. What he’s been able to do in nine months is nothing short of a miracle from above. He’s just grateful that he can inspire one person, which in turn, has turned into millions.
“I have been running into a lot of people that don’t even know about football, telling me that their cousin has been diagnosed with cancer, or their mom, or their aunt. They just tell me that they have hope, because they see me out on the field, and that means a lot to me,” Berry said. “I just have to take advantage of this opportunity, because it’s bigger than football. As much as I love this game, I will show everybody that through my play and passion.”
“It’s amazing to see everybody else get so much hope from seeing me strap on the pads,” Berry said. “Before I even get on the field, to see me practice and see me out there with the team, it does so much for them. I just have to go hard, and give everything I got to give them hope.”
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