KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One glance at Elliott Berry must force anyone who knows his older brother Eric to do a double take. The physical presence and mannerism, the strong yet gentle voice, the steely-eyed earnest look, even the hair style and beard show remarkable similarities.
“I think I’m more laid back, maybe,” the younger Berry said on the biggest difference between the two.
Maybe the resemblances are happenstance rather than purely genetic but there’s another bond that Elliott Berry shares with his All-Pro safety brother Eric, and that’s football. Elliott followed in the footsteps of both his brother and his father to play football in college at Tennessee, and now he comes to Kansas City where he hopes to take the field with his elder brother.
“We’ve never played on the same team before,” Berry said, who played linebacker for the Volunteers but is playing at safety during the team’s rookie minicamp. “I don’t know if you’ve got any siblings but I feel like anybody that got siblings, they love their siblings, it’s a close bond. You can’t really describe. I just want to play with my brother. Not many people get that opportunity.”
The 22-year-old Berry came to Kansas City in hopes of lining up in the defensive backfield alongside his 29-year-old brother. Elliott’s twin brother Evan signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns as a wide receiver. This marks the first time in their lives the younger brothers have played for different teams.
“We didn’t talk about it but we just know it was going to happen at some point,” Elliott said.
Elliott may have had other opportunities around the league but Kansas City offered the one thing that no other club could offer.
“For one my brother’s here,” Elliott said. “That’s one thing that’s familiar. And then I’m just a little bit more familiar with Kansas City than some other places.”
Kansas City may be new to Elliott but he’s grown to appreciate the city during many visits. He said he’s watched his brother play in Arrowhead Stadium about 10 times. The city reminds him of Knoxville, providing a connection to his college roots.
It was during Elliott’s first few months as a freshman in Knoxville when the Berry family received news that shocked the group to their core. Eric left a Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders with discomfort in his chest. Initial tests revealed a mass and a cancer diagnosis. Eric began treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma back home in Atlanta.
“It was rough,” Elliott said. “We didn’t really get to see him a whole lot, we just got to talk on the phone. It was rough.”
His brother beat cancer and then further toppled the odds, returning to the football field less than a year later and winning the NFL’s comeback player of the year award. Berry already believed his brother tougher than any battle in front of him, but the fight against cancer taught him an important life lesson in the process.
“I knew he was always resilient, never really scared of anything,” Elliott said. “But after that experience it kind of showed me how resilient he really, really, really was. That just kind of taught me that if you put your mind to something you can do it.”
That’s a lesson Elliott hopes to apply now pursuing an NFL career. He signed with the Chiefs as a tryout player with no guarantees beyond this weekend’s three-day rookie minicamp.
The quick turnaround from signing with the Chiefs follow last week’s NFL draft and the start of the tryout camp left the Berry brothers little time to talk about defensive schemes and playbooks. Eric told his brother to stay sharp and be focused all the time.
“I’m serious,” he said. “I’m taking advantage of the opportunity that I’ve got.”
That’s another similarity the two brothers share. The Chiefs selected Eric with the fifth-overall selection of the 2010 draft, and he took advantage of the opportunity. Now Elliott has his foot in the door, and he wants to make his mark as well.
The eerie similarities between the brothers might be intentional with Elliott emulating the older brother he admires and loves.
But when it comes to that hairstyle, it might just be random chance.
“I never really like cutting my hair,” the younger Berry said. “I just don’t like cutting my hair.”