KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Eric Berry, one of the greatest defensive players in Tennessee football history, will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame this year.

The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced Monday that the two-time unanimous first-team All-America defensive back has been selected to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame.

Berry along with 18 other players and four coaches will be officially inducted during the 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Presented by Las Vegas on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas.

The Fairburn, Georgia native will become the 26th Tennessee Volunteer to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the second in the past three years after Al Wilson’s induction in 2021.

The Tennessee inductees include 22 players, the most of any program in the SEC and eighth-most nationally.

“On behalf of the entire Tennessee football program, we extend a huge congratulations to VFL Eric Berry on his selection into the College Football Hall of Fame. Eric’s legacy as the only two-time unanimous All-American in program history remains strong, and he serves an inspiration to so many. He continues a long-standing tradition of Vols enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations again to Eric and his family.”

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel

In 2009, Berry became the first and only player in school history to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.

A three-time All-SEC selection, including first-team honors in 2008 and 2009, Berry was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after leading the conference with seven interceptions. 

Berry concluded his three seasons at Tennessee as the SEC’s all-time leader in career interception return yards and he ranks fifth in Tennessee history for career interceptions.

He was selected fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, becoming the highest defensive draft pick from Tennessee since Reggie White in 1984. Berry earned five Pro Bowl selections and three first-team All-Pro honors over his nine-year career.

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. After Berry was declared cancer free, he returned to the NFL and was named the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

“Congratulations to Eric Berry! I am so proud of his great accomplishment of being inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. Eric earned his way into the Hall of Fame by his great ability to run, tackle, play the ball and return an interception, but even more so because of his character, work ethic, and love of the University of Tennessee and his teammates. Eric was the only player I had that started the first collegiate game of his career. He learned quickly, set a great attitude in the locker room and on the practice field. He was quiet and confident and let his actions speak for himself. He studied video, took to coaching exceptionally well and wanted to be the best player he could be every single day. His physical play was obvious, but Eric’s off-the-field leadership and the example he set as a man in our community endeared him to everyone who got to know him. Eric has wonderful parents that led the way for all of their boys! I know VFL dad, James, and mom, Carol, are proud of Eric as well. He joins a great group of Tennessee Volunteers in the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.”

Phillip Fulmer, NFF and College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012