It’s been said that you will know the true character of a man by how he reacts to challenging moments in life, not when all is well in his corner. It’s easy to push forward or tell someone to push ahead when things are going well or you’re faced with minor issues. But we all know that it’s easier said than done. We have all had moments where we’re trying to console a friend and we pep talk them, tell them to keep their head up and stay positive. Some of us even lose touch with reality at times and question the toughness of others when they are seemingly defeated by something, not able to fathom why they aren’t able to pick themselves up and go on with life.
Well, I want to talk about a man who wasn't just faced with any typical obstacle. He was faced with a life altering disease that could have taken his life and ended his career. A career that he worked so hard for, a career that had just gotten started and was proving to be a promising career at that. I’m talking about Eric Berry. Eric Berry comes from a family of amazing football players, all of whom don't just have the talent, but work hard at what they do. Eric was an All-American safety at the University of Tennessee several years ago and it was all but written in stone that he would go pro and be a super star in the NFL once he was drafted. While at Tennessee Eric received All-American honors several times and was a three year starter for a team in a conference that many consider to be the toughest in College football and one step below the NFL.
True to what was predicted for him, when Eric declared for the NFL draft he was a top pick for the Kansas City Chiefs where he was penciled in as a started instantly and didn’t seem to miss a beat as his stellar play in college easily transitioned over to the NFL where he found himself playing at an All Pro level his first few years in the league. So for all intents and purposes, the minor obstacles that young men face in their life when turning pro, the money, the fame, the speed of the game, those things were easy for him to conquer. But what happened next is something that he, nor anyone else who knew him could have expected. After several amazing years in the league, and still a very young man Eric was told by a doctor one day that he had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, a very serious type of cancer.
Here is a man who was on top of the world, playing a game he loved with the world at his finger tips and he had just been told that he had a form of cancer that could have ended his life, and at the least his career as a professional football player. With that knowledge, Eric quietly went to work. What do I mean by he went to work? Eric instantly began Chemo therapy treatments. For anyone who has any experience with Cancer themselves or has family members who have, you know what that means. It means intense treatments that ravage your body and immune system. You lose all your strength, your hair, drop weight and it looks like you're wasting away.
For many people it’s been said the chemo is the worst. I've even heard some say that it feels worse than having cancer itself. For many cancer patients, the treatment has mentally broken them, made them give up, ultimately enabling Cancer to take their lives. But not Eric, Eric fought, Eric became a beacon of strength and an example of what a real fighter is. Not only did Eric go through his Chemotherapy treatments, but he continued to work out as well. You see Eric Berry didn’t know what quitting or laying down was. He didn't know the meaning of giving up nor would he allow himself to feel it. While many are bedridden from such a harsh treatment, he took the treatment and continued to go to workout facilities and train so that when he overcame Cancer, he would also continue his career in the NFL.
I have to admit, when I first heard about his diagnosis several years ago, I figured that football was over for him. I remember feeling sad for him and just hoping that he could beat his disease and not become another sad story. Not once did I think he had a chance to continue playing football as I’m sure many others thought as well. But he knew better and he pushed on through. He showed everyone what true toughness and determination was. Not only did Eric Berry defeat cancer, but he returned to the NFL this year to continue his career as a professional football player. He returned to the NFL this year and was amongst the league leaders in time spent on the field, playing 95 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs snaps this year.
Like a true all star, in his first year back from recovering fighting his cancer diagnosis, Eric made the Pro Bowl. Once again he was named an All Star and one of the top players at his position. How is that for being a fighter and not giving up? During tough times Eric proved to be tougher. As they say, tougher people are better than the tough times and Eric Berry may be one of the toughest ever. He’s an inspiration to his peers, his family, the NFL and anyone else who cares to pay attention to his story. Hearing stories like his really puts in perspective what you can achieve when you believe in yourself and vow to keep pushing along.
Even when you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel you have to hold the mentality that you will make a window for that light to enter. When you can't run you walk and when you can’t walk you crawl. And if that time comes where you feel you can’t crawl, then you stand. Stand still, gather your strength and think about how you can't give up on yourself. You can do it, you just have to believe it. When that time comes where you have to face something that seems insurmountable then you need to look around and find your shovel. Find that shovel so that you may dig deep. Dig deep and see exactly what you're made of.