Bert Berry Goes Home
Bert Berry has been looking forward to this for quite a long timenow. It is finally his turn to go home.
In fact, the senior will experience two homecomings, so to speak,this season. Tomorrow, when the Humble, TX native takes the field ofMemorial Stadium, it will mark his first game in the Lone Star Statesince the 1994 Cotton Bowl.
“I’m just excited to go back,” Berry said. “I’ve been waiting forthis game for a long time. I’ve known it’s been on our schedule sincefreshman year.”
And while this is the sort of homecoming that Berry will enjoy for afew days and maybe gain a handful of warm memories from, he has alreadyhad the pleasure of another and probably more lasting homecoming thisyear. He has returned to his “home” on the football field – the positionof rush linebacker.
“I really do consider it my home. It suits my abilities well.” Italso suits his personality well.
The role calls for an attacking, aggressive, animalistic sort ofdemeanor. It is a persona that Berry, who stands 6-foot-3 and enteredthe season weighing 245 pounds, has no trouble portraying on the field.”He’s a wild maniac out there,” classmate and close friend Lyron Cobbinssaid. On the field, his face hides behind a darkly-tinted sunshield andhis hands ready to inflict bodily danger upon all who get in his way.He’s not the kind of guy opposing quarterbacks like to meet. On thequad, though, it’s another world. His face beams a smile and his handsready to greet anyone along the way. He’s exactly the kind of guy you’dlike to meet.
“Off the field, it’s night and day with Bert,” Cobbins explained.”When he’s not playing, he’s very sociable.”
One might diagnose Berry as a sort of schizophrenic when it comes tohis on-the-field, off-the-field variations, but he attributes it tosomething else.
“You can’t really carry that stuff over onto the field,” the seniorsaid. “You are supposed to be aggressive and reckless and I have alwaysbeen a shy, quiet, to-myself-kind-of guy. I take pride in that. I don’tlike to talk about football off the field. I try to live and treatpeople like I would want to be treated.”
But as evidenced by his three sacks and 10 tackles thus far in 1996,Berry’s role in pads is to seek and destroy. It hasn’t always been sosimple.
In large part due to his immense athleticism, Berry earned starts in4 late-season games as a freshman. At that point, his specific role wasstill undefined.
But as Berry put added muscle between freshman and sophomore year, itbecame apparent that his future was at the rush linebacker spot that newdefensive coordinator Bob Davie put emphasis on. Berry responded withsix sacks in 1994, including three against Stanford’s Steve Stenstrom.His tremendous potential was within reach. And then Kory Minor and themove came.
Minor, a highly touted freshman in 1995, merited a startinglinebacker slot. Since the rush spot requires a bit less experience andin-depth knowledge of the system, Berry was shifted to the more complexdrop spot in favor of Minor.
While his stats were down and many critics wondered if the shiftwould stunt Berry’s growth, the 1996 Lindy’s pre-season first-teamAll-American thinks it actually helped.
“It has helped my overall game,” Berry admitted. “When I camehere, I was more of a one-dimensional player. Having to drop and go intocoverage has helped me. Of course, I would have wanted to play rush butwhatever helps the team is best.”
Now, with Minor having a year of seasoning, Berry is back where hebelongs – at rush.
“This has been a position that I’ve wanted to play since I followed(Texas) A+M (growing up). I’ve always loved that position and I thinkit’s exciting. You can be a playmaker. It’s something I’ve waited forawhile.”
The wait for his literal homecoming, the Texas showdown, has beenjust as anticipated.
“There are some bragging rights at stake,” said Berry. “They’ve beenwaiting on us because last year, we beat them pretty good last year andthey want to turn things around. We need to approach it like we approachevery game. It’s going to be a tough environment. “The hardest partabout going home is getting tickets for all your family. Being able togo home and play in front of family and friends is incentive. That willhelp.”
Berry and his fellow Texans (5 defensive starters) know the immediateimportance of the contest, but they also are quite cognizant of its’more important consequences.
“We have a good shot at the national championship “This game is goingto have a lot to say about the national championship,” Berry declared.
And Berry is going to have a lot to say about Notre Dame’s shot. Thelinebacking corp that includes Minor, strong-side backer Lyron Cobbins,and weak -side backer Kinnon Tatum is among the hard-hitting and best inthe nation.
“The Headbangers”, a moniker they gave themselves during the springof 1995, thrive off each other, especially the seniors (Berry, Cobbins,and Tatum).
“Lyron, Kinnon, and myself came in here together and we have beenfriends all four years. We’ve just gotten closer every year. When you goout there, it’s almost like ‘I don’t want to let them down’. We go outand play for each other. It helps when you’re out there and you have tomake certain checks because you have confidence and you know that theyare going to get the job done.”
Next year, Berry hopes his job will be in the NFL, but right now,it’s all about sacks and wins – not necessarily in that order. “I’;vealways taken pride in making sacks. I like to set the standard prettyhigh. I said to my fellow linebackers that I want to average two a game.That would make 24. If individual awards come, then so be it but ourprimary goal is to win a national championhip.” It all starts at home.