KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee on Tuesday morning officially launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for star defensive back Eric Berry.
Berry, a 5-foot-11, 203-pound junior from the Atlanta area and second generation Volunteer, has started all 26 games of his All-America career. He is already just 15 yards shy of breaking former Florida State star Terrell Buckley's NCAA record of 501 interception return yards from 1989-91.
A National Honor Society member in high school with a 3.75 grade-point average, Berry hopes to become a dentist after finishing his football career. His father, James Berry, was a four-year letterman, three-year starter and 1981 team captain at UT.
The athletic department's aggressive Heisman campaign features a Web site - www.berry4heisman.com - as well as Facebook and Twitter pages. Berry's site is scheduled to feature information, videos and blogs written by the player.
A 16-foot-tall No. 14 jersey was displayed in Neyland Stadium on Tuesday morning. Berry joked Monday that there was "no way" he'd fit in it.
"He's a mature kid," UT coach Lane Kiffin said. "He can handle (the hype)."
Kiffin also conceded the inevitable, though, that Berry will likely skip his final season of eligibility and enter next spring's NFL draft.
"I've already given up that Eric won't be here for his last year," Kiffin said.
UT has been a Heisman bridesmaid over the years, with tailback Johnny Majors and quarterback Peyton Manning getting agonizingly close to college football's top honor with second-place finishes in 1956 and 1997. Vols quarterback Heath Shuler also came in second to Charlie Ward in 2003, but Ward was a heavy favorite for the award.
Read Wednesday's Times Free Press for more UT coverage, and contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.twitter.com/wesrucker.