Tennessee football: Vols top 30 players since 1998 national championship

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /
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Eric Berry, Tennessee football
Eric Berry, Tennessee football. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /

Part of the transition of eras for Tennessee football, Eric Berry is probably the most standout player on this list. And it makes sense. The guy has become a great ambassador for the Vols. In the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s the comeback king.

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  • Berry has fought back from two season-ending injuries and a lymphoma diagnosis to earn All-Pro the following season every time. His history of inspiration beyond college ball is a reason for him to be so high on this list.

    But it’s just as good that his play in college warrants his standing right here. A legacy player, Berry committed as a five-star with immediate expectations heading into 2007. And he immediately delivered, despite not starting the first game.

    Against the Florida Gators, Berry broke out with a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tim Tebow. He finished with five interceptions on the year and returned them for 222 yards, and was a huge playmaker on defense.

    In an overtime win against the South Carolina Gamecocks, Berry returned an interception 13 yards and a fumble 52 yards to set up a touchdown.

    The next year, though, Berry broke out even more. Even as the Vols labored through a historically bad season that got Phillip Fulmer fired, Berry ended up doing everything, registering three sacks and returning seven interceptions for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He was robbed of the Jim Thorpe Award that year but still earned All-America honors.

    Lane Kiffin’s final season showed another side of Berry. Monte Kiffin had him play up more, almost as a linebacker in his Cover-2 scheme. The result kept Berry from being able to break the all-time interception return yardage record, but he still had two picks. That year, Berry earned the Thorpe Award he deserved the year before.

    Top 10 Vols who never played in the NFL. light. Related Story

    For his career, Berry had 14 interceptions, which he returned for 494 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 245 total tackles, including 17.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. The guy did everything and was a complete player. Nobody would dispute his belonging here.