Berry brothers hope to continue family's legacy with Vols

FAIRBURN, GA — Elliott Berry navigated the hallways at Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga., in his black Nike Air Force 1s with a composed, confident swagger. House keys jangled from the 5-foot-11, 202-pound senior running back's left hip pocket as he high-fived fellow students between sips of water from a gallon jug.

On the other side of the school, Elliott's fraternal twin, Evan, sat alone in a classroom, with a laser focus on the makeup American government exam in front of him. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety — capable of clocking a 10.54-second 100-meter sprint — was dressed in a black Adidas track suit and Air Jordans.

If you ran into either Berry, you could have mistaken them for the one who played in the NFL's Pro Bowl. The twins' builds nearly mirror that of their older brother, Eric, who is an All-Pro safety for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, eyes nationwide are on the twins as attention turns to signing day. Although Elliott and Evan pledged to Tennessee on Nov. 4, their birthday, Wednesday marks the moment they officially can become Volunteers.

Their father, James, played running back and served as team captain in 1981, rushing for 1,721 yards. Eric became a two-time All-American, a defensive captain as a junior and received the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. He skipped his senior season and was selected No. 5 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Chiefs.

"It makes me proud that they'd want to go to the same school that I went to and do it at their own accord," James said.

Although the twins hardly market their connection, internally Evan feels it. When he isn't around Elliott, it's as though "I'm missing half of me. It's not that I can't live without him, but I'm just so used to having him around. Eventually we'll have to go our separate ways into the real world, but right now, we really don't have to."

That's a guarantee for a few years. While the twins possess different personalities and interests, deciding where to attend college wasn't a conflicting allure. Had one brother received an athletic scholarship offer and not the other, each agreed not to accept.

"I didn't want to put my parents under that kind of stress — going to Elliott's game one week and going to my game another week," Evan said.

The Berry family is so closely intertwined with the University of Tennessee that Evan recalled a Vols fan once extended a football magazine and requested that he autograph the cover. Evan, at the time, was just 14 years old.

"It surprised me. It let me know what kind of situation I was in," he said. "I'm blessed to have people wanting me to come to their school, and for what my brother had done to put me in that situation."

Whispers of matching Eric's successes have hovered over the twins since elementary school. Growing up, the twins competed with each other as much as they did against their older brother.

"It was always like, 'If you score 10 points, I'm going to score 15,' " their father recalled. "It's an ongoing thing. Every time Eric comes home, they want to race or do something to prove that they're better. It only motivates them to do well."

Last season, they one-upped Eric's high school achievements when they helped Creekside make history by winning a state championship. Eric, a former two-way star at Creekside, was the nation's No. 3 prospect in 2007, leading his team to the state quarterfinals but never further.

2013 was different. Elliott, whom ranked as the No. 47 prospect in the state, and Evan, rated No. 22 in Georgia, were a double dose of leadership, strength and quickness.

"Running sprints with them, we pretty much just gave up," senior wide receiver Dexter Knox said. "Even if we tried, there was just no way. They were that much faster. They were the spark of our team. A lot of kids on the team looked up to them."

Stepping into the leadership role, just like their older brother, was never a question for the twins. And as much as the twins respect Eric's feats and hope to continue to build the family legacies at Tennessee, in the process, the twins are concerning themselves with a bigger challenge.

"I haven't thought about personal goals, but as a team, I want to win a national championship," Evan said.


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