|Bear-ing Down: Chris Berry's persistence has paid off for starting left guard|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Oct. 12, 2004 - At 6-2, 350 pounds, senior offensive guard Chris Berry is the biggest guy on the Sulphur Springs varsity. He has shown a tenacity to match his size.
Berry, nicknamed "Bear," has exhibited a work ethic and stay-to-itiveness that has translated into him earning a starting spot on the left side of the offensive line, said SSHS head coach Brad Turner.
"The thing about Bear is that he's probably made more improvement from where he was as a junior and especially as a sophomore than anyone. He's come a million miles," Turner said. "Bear has hung in there and done everything we've asked him to do. He's kind of made himself into a good football player.
"If you watch him now, he's pulling, and for a 350-pounder, he moves pretty darn good."
Turner's referring to the job of an offensive lineman to occasionally lead a running back around the corner or into a hole. It's more difficult for large linemen because they are asked to block smaller, quicker linebackers and defensive backs.
It's called playing in space, and it's something coaches couldn't have expected Berry to do well a couple of years ago. Now, it's something he relishes.
"Pulling is my favorite part," Berry said. "I like catching the other players off guard and hitting them."
Still, he knows his bread-and-butter is what goes on in the trenches, when he's expected to manhandle the defensive player across from him. He lines up next to 6-2, 290-pound Jose "Chief" Vargas at left tackle. Together, they make an imposing pair who can crush the right side of the defensive line.
"When Bear gets on you, you're blocked. That's what he does best. He's pretty good at getting on you and using his size to keep you blocked," Turner said. "What he wasn't good at was pulling - and when we would get him out in space people would out-athlete him. And, he's much better at that now.
"He's pulling on the counters and the bootlegs, and when he gets out on the corner his agility is so much better. That's come through offseason and running the ropes and just all that we do."
Berry agrees that the offseason program and spring workouts made him better.
"Mainly, it's been in the offseason, running and lifting weights. Coach Albritton makes us do ropes and helps us with our footwork in the offseason," Berry explained.
But, Turner stresses that it was up to Bear to get better because long, aerobic workouts are hardest on the biggest players. He has not only been an asset to the Wildcats, but Berry is a model of persistence that younger players cam emulate.
"When you're that big, it's hard to overcome that weight and make yourself a good player. When it's hot, it's harder on them. When we're running, it's harder on them. Everything's just a little harder when you're that big," Turner said.
"We've had a lot of big kids in the past, but they're not always willing to wait it out. It's going to happen if they just stay with it. For all the younger kids, he's one they can look at and say, 'If I stay with it, I can be a good player like Bear.' He's a prime example of that."
Berry is very quiet with a deep but soft voice. He talks with some of the younger Wildcats who he sees are going through some of the same challenges he did.
"I just tell them to keep on working hard," he said, "and they'll get better."