As the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class has been officially inducted, anticipation now turns toward potential inductees for next year's class. Kansas City Chiefs fans will be particularly intrigued as two franchise legends, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, become eligible for the first time.
Today, our attention is focused on safety Eric Berry. Despite no official announcement of his retirement, Berry has remained unsigned by any NFL team since his release from the Chiefs in March of 2019. With the five-year waiting period set to expire next year, he becomes eligible to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Let's delve into Eric Berry's case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and examine why he is truly deserving of forever enshrinement in Canton, Ohio.
A look at Eric Berry's career achievements
Eric Berry stood out as one of the most decorated NFL safeties in the 2010s. His impressive accolades include three First-team All-Pro selections (2013, 2015, 2016) and five Pro Bowl appearances (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).
Beyond these honors, Eric Berry's remarkable achievements also encompass winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2015 and earning a well-deserved spot on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. Additionally, he twice tied for the league lead in pick-sixes during his career (2013 and 2016).
The rare distinction of being named a first-team All-Pro three times underscores Berry's exceptional talent and places him in the company of Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers. While he may not be the most decorated player ever at his position, any young safety in today's NFL would aspire to achieve even half of what he has accomplished throughout his remarkable career.
A look at Eric Berry's courage
When you a casual NFL fan about Eric Berry, one of the first things that people think of is how he successfully beat Cancer in the middle of his illustrious football career.
In the middle of the 2014 season, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. His season obviously ended after the diagnosis. Fortunately, he was able to return fully to football activities the following season, where he was a pro bowler and first-team All-Pro.
There aren't many examples of athletes having their careers paused due to a major illness, then end up returning to their sport at an elite level. One of the greatest players in the history of the NHL, Mario Lemieux, was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and also played at a superstar level after returning from his battle with Cancer.
Berry's story is Hall of Fame worthy in and of itself. Being diagnosed with a life-altering illness would cause many players to end their careers, and understandably so. But not Eric Berry. I feel confident in saying that returning from Cancer and playing at an All-Pro level is one of the most legendary things that a football player has ever done.
A look at Eric Berry's dominance
Some players in the Hall of Fame may have earned their place primarily through exceptional career statistics, but not all of them truly dominated the game. However, Berry undoubtedly falls into the category of dominant players in the NFL.
Throughout his career, Berry showcased his prowess with five pick-sixes, including the memorable "pick-two" against Atlanta in 2016. His versatility shone brightly, displaying remarkable skills as a run defender, tackler, and blitzer. He left no doubt about his impact on the Chiefs, turning the tide in two critical games during the team's first division title win in six seasons in 2016. Notably, he secured a pick-six against Cam Newton in Carolina and a "pick-two" on a two-point conversion against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, transforming a potential 28-27 deficit (or 30-27) into a 29-28 lead for Kansas City.
There are only a handful of defensive backs, particularly safeties, who can genuinely claim to have been game-changing players, and Eric Berry undoubtedly ranks among them. Though his peak may not have endured as long as we hoped, not many safeties in the history of football can boast of having influenced the game as significantly as Berry did.
Making the Final Case
In conclusion, while Eric Berry's career might not have matched the longevity of players like Charles Woodson, he still amassed enough accolades and displayed undeniable dominance to deserve a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though his induction might not happen in 2024, it should undoubtedly occur at some point in the future. His NFL journey carries the narrative of a true legend, complemented by the well-deserved honors and accolades he earned.
One factor that could be holding him back is his early retirement at just 30 years old. Some voters might view this as a drawback, but it should not overshadow his remarkable accomplishments. Berry's storyline, combined with his peak performance, creates a compelling and deserving case for enshrinement in Canton.