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Kansas City Chiefs' Eric Berry excels on field, remains classy off it

By The Sports Xchange
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) waves to the fans as he leaves the field following the Chiefs' 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in the NFL Wild Card Round game at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on January 9, 2016, in Houston. File Photo by Erik Williams/UPI
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) waves to the fans as he leaves the field following the Chiefs' 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in the NFL Wild Card Round game at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on January 9, 2016, in Houston. File Photo by Erik Williams/UPI | License Photo

So what does Eric Berry have planned as an encore for Thursday evening when his Kansas City Chiefs host the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium?

Last Sunday, Berry had one of those Disney-type performances in Kansas City's one-point victory over the Falcons in Atlanta. In front of his family, friends and neighbors from the southwest Atlanta suburb of Fairburn, Berry had two interceptions, scoring a touchdown with the first and then picking up two points for the Chiefs when he grabbed a Falcons' attempted conversion.

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Whether or not the Chiefs as a group can put behind them their overtime and fourth-quarter victories in the last two weeks over Denver and Atlanta won't be known until well after Thursday night's kickoff. But, one player that will be wearing the all-red uniform of the Chiefs was quick to indicate the emotions of his afternoon against the Falcons will be forgotten.

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"When you put in work and put everything into the process, the product is always going to be good," Berry said after beating Atlanta. "There's no reason to be surprised. We can clean up some things but there's no reason to be surprised or get too high about this win. We still haven't reached our ultimate goal, so there's no reason for us to act like we did."

Berry talks like that all the time, meaning he's a coach's dream and a teammate everyone in the organization can rely on. In the Chiefs' locker room after the victories over Denver and Atlanta, head coach Andy Reid asked one player to speak to the team - Berry.

"I think he's mentally tough, and I think that helped him in his recovery (from Hodgkin's lymphoma)," Reid said. "He just says, 'I'm doing it, and no one is stopping me and here we go.' That's kind of how he goes about life."

Plus, there's his ability to perform in the spotlight and pressure situations. "What happened Sunday was phenomenal," Reid said of Berry's play against Atlanta.

Nothing about what their safety did surprised his teammates.

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"It's a normal routine for us," cornerback Marcus Peters said. "We know what type of player he is, how dominant he is and how he leads this team. We're all on the same page of where we are and where we want to go."

Said Reid of the Berry work-ethic: "When you're around here, it's all about football, and that's the part you appreciate - him coming to work and bringing that attitude. There's never a day off. It's let's stay focused, let's go through the process, let's get ready to play the game and then, play it hard. That can be contagious.

"In every business it's who can sustain? Then, in particular, if you get a lot of pats on the back and you're told how good you are in Pro Bowls and All-Pro deals; how do you sustain? He's been able to do that."

Thus, Berry has become the heart and soul of the Chiefs, whether on the field or in the locker room.

"You're talking about a man that's undeniably one of the best around," defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. "His work ethic and what he overcame to get to where he is right now - just the guy he is - and to see him come home and put on a show like that -it's special.

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"When you're around E.B., every game means a lot to him."

Even for those around the Chiefs that do not play, there is high praise for Berry. The team's long-time equipment man Allen Wright took to Facebook to express himself:

"As I get older, in my fifties, you take notice when someone says "please" and "thank you."

Eric is the first one to say, "Good morning, how are you doing?", "thanks" when he asks for something and the first one to help if he sees a need. Notice I haven't said anything about him being a football player. ... In today's world, what a blessing for all of us. Especially Chiefs Fans!"

Long-time NFL trainer Rick Burkholder also took to Facebook and captured a moment after the overtime victory against Denver:

"After that amazing win, Eric Berry our all-pro safety came to the athletic training room and hugged or shook every AT's and MD's hand and said thank you! The epitome of why we do our jobs!"

It was two years and two weeks ago that Berry felt discomfort in his chest after a Chiefs' loss to the Raiders in a Thursday night game in Oakland. A few days later, the lymphoma diagnosis came down and Berry headed back home to Georgia for treatments and to spend time with his family. Even in those moments when he was curled up in the fetal position, exhausted and nauseous from chemotherapy and racked by doubt on his ability to return to his chosen profession, Berry marched forward.

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That's why just a few moments after the Chiefs beat Atlanta, Berry was already looking not behind, but ahead.

"I'm ready for the Raiders," Berry said.

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