Raymond Berry

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Raymond Berry
refer to caption
Berry on a 1961 trading card
No. 82
Position: Wide receiver
Personal information
Date of birth: (1933-02-27) February 27, 1933 (age 83)
Place of birth: Corpus Christi, Texas
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 187 lb (85 kg)
Career information
High school: Paris (TX)
College: SMU
NFL Draft: 1954 / Round: 20 / Pick: 232
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receptions: 631
Receiving yards: 9,275
Touchdowns: 68
Player stats at NFL.com
Head coaching record
Regular season: 48–39 (.552)
Postseason: 3–2 (.600)
Career: 51–41 (.554)

Raymond Emmett Berry (born February 27, 1933) is a former football wide receiver. He played for the Baltimore Colts during their two NFL championship wins. He later had a career in coaching, highlighted by his trip to Super Bowl XX as head coach of the New England Patriots. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Early life and college[edit]

Raymond Emmett Berry was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on February 27, 1933, and spent the majority of his childhood in Paris, Texas.[1] At Paris High School and in college, Berry caught very few passes. He did not start on his high school team until he was a senior, even though his father was the coach.[2] After high school Berry played one year of junior college football at Shreiner Institute (now Schreiner University) in Kerrville, Texas during the 1950 campaign.[3] He helped the Mountaineers finish its most successful season in 10 years with a record of 7–3.[4] He then transferred to Southern Methodist University (SMU). In three seasons for the SMU Mustangs football team, Berry received only 33 passes total. Sportswriters attributed his lack of receptions to his poor eyesight, but during the early 1950s, colleges specialized in the running game. As Berry said, "I didn't catch many passes because not many were thrown".[5] He also played outside linebacker and defensive end for the Mustangs, despite weighing only 180 pounds (82 kg) even by his senior year.[6]

Physical condition[edit]

Berry overcame several physical ailments during his football career, a fact he became famous for,[5][3][7] but one that was often exaggerated by media, according to Berry.[8] He was diminutive and injury prone. When his college teammates saw him for the first time, they sarcastically dubbed him, "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy".[3] Reportedly, because one of his legs was shorter than the other, Berry had to wear padding inside his shoe in order to walk properly.[3][2] However, according to Berry, this was not entirely true. In reality, bruised nerves near the sacroiliac joint occasionally caused misalignment in his back, which in turn affected his legs and caused one to become slightly shorter; it was not a permanent condition.[9][5] To alleviate this, he wore a back brace for 13 years in the NFL. That he had to wear specialized shoes was a myth, which Berry says was perpetuated by an overzealous information director with the Colts when Berry tried to compensate for his condition by putting something in his shoe during training camp.[8]

Due to his poor eyesight, Berry had to wear contact lenses when he played.[10] Because the lenses would often slip when he did rapid eye movements toward the ball, he tried many different lenses, which led sportswriters to believe he must have had major eye problems. "I tried all kinds of lenses till we got what we wanted," he said. "I even had tinted lenses for sunny days, so I could watch the ball come right across the sun."[5]

Professional career[edit]

Drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the twentieth round as the 203rd overall pick of the 1954 NFL Draft, Berry was considered a long-shot to make the team roster.[2] After being used sparingly as a rookie, catching only 13 passes, he became a permanent starter on the team by his second NFL season when the Colts acquired quarterback Johnny Unitas. Over the next 12 seasons together, the two became one of the most dominant passing and catching duos in NFL history.[2][11][3] Berry, who did not miss a single game until his eighth year in the league, led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards three times and in receiving touchdowns twice, while Unitas won four NFL Most Valuable Player awards and set numerous passing records.

Berry was famous for his attention to detail and preparation, which he used to overcome his physical limitations. Considered slow for a wide receiver, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds.[5] Rather than speed, he was renowned for his precise pass patterns and sure hands; he rarely dropped passes, and he fumbled only once in his career.[12] He would squeeze Silly Putty constantly to strengthen his hands.[12] He and Unitas regularly worked after practice and developed the timing and knowledge of each other's abilities that made each more effective. The reason for this, according to Berry, was that the two did not think on the same wavelength. "Every season we had to start all over on our timing, especially the long ball," said Berry. "He knew he had to release the ball when I was eighteen yards from scrimmage for me to receive it thirty-eight yards out. I knew I had to make my break in those first eighteen yards and get free within 2.8 seconds."[11] He also relied on shifty moves, and by his count, he had 88 different moves to get open,[2] all of which he practiced every week.[12]

In 1957, he caught 47 passes for 800 yards and six touchdowns, leading the NFL in receiving yards for the first time. Against the Washington Redskins that year in near-freezing weather, Unitas connected with Berry on 12 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, staging what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called a "spectacular show".[13] He was recognized as a first-team All-Pro by The Sporting News and earned second-team honors from the Associated Press (AP).[14] The following season, he recorded 794 receiving yards and led the league with 56 receptions and nine touchdowns. For his efforts, Berry was invited to his first Pro Bowl, and was a first-team All-Pro by the AP and several other major selectors.[15] The Colts finished atop the Western Division with a record of 9–3, and faced the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.

One of Berry's most notable performances was in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", in which he caught a championship record 12 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' 23–17 victory over the Giants.[16][2] During the Colts' final game-winning drive in overtime, Berry had two key receptions for 33 yards. He also caught three consecutive passes for 62 yards to set up the Colts' tying field goal at the end of regulation.[10][6]

Berry led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 1959, becoming the fourth player to record a "triple crown" in receiving.[17] His 14 receiving touchdowns set a Colts single-season franchise record that stood unmatched for over four decades.[18] He was invited to his second straight Pro Bowl, and earned first-team All-Pro honors from the AP, UPI, The Sporting News, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, and the New York Daily News.[19] The Colts won their second championship in a row, again defeating the Giants, 31–16. In that game, Berry caught five passes for 68 yards, second on the team behind halfback Lenny Moore's 126 yards on three receptions.[20][21]

In 1960, Berry recorded his only 1,000-yard season, as he caught 74 passes and had career highs in receiving yards (1,298) and receiving yards per game (108.2). Each of those totals led the NFL that year by a wide margin; no other player had more than 1,000 yards, and the next highest yards-per-game average was 81.0.[22] He had a mid-season string of six straight games with over 100 yards, during which he caught 50 passes for 920 yards and eight touchdowns.[23] Berry again was a Pro Bowl invitee, and earned first-team All-Pro honors from all the same selectors as the previous year.[24]

Having reached his zenith, Berry never again led the NFL in any statistical categories over his final seven seasons, but he remained a consistent target for Unitas. His 75 receptions in the 1961 season was second most in the league, and he finished 10th in receiving yards, but failed to record a touchdown for the first time since his rookie year.[14] He scored the first touchdown of that year's Pro Bowl on a 16-yard reception from Unitas in the first quarter.[25] His streak of Pro Bowl invitations ended at four, as he was not invited in 1962, but made consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1963 and 1964, the latter being his final.[14] The Colts returned to the postseason in 1964, where they were shutout 27–0 by the Cleveland Browns in the 1964 championship game.[26]

Berry ended his professional playing career after the 1967 season with an NFL record 631 receptions for 9,275 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and 68 touchdowns.[14]

Coaching career[edit]

After retiring from pro football in 1967 after a 13-year playing career, Berry joined Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys coaching staff as receivers coach.[27] In 1970, after two seasons, Berry took a job with Frank Broyles at the University of Arkansas as receivers coach. In 1973 Berry joined Don McCafferty with the Detroit Lions as his receivers coach. In 1976, Berry joined former SMU teammate Forrest Gregg as his receivers coach with the Cleveland Browns. Berry joined the New England Patriots as receivers coach under Chuck Fairbanks in 1978. He stayed on with new coach Ron Erhardt until Erhardt and his entire staff were fired following a 2–14 1981 season. Berry left football and worked in real estate in Medfield, Massachusetts, until the Patriots fired Ron Meyer in the middle of the 1984 season and hired Berry to replace him. Under his leadership, the Patriots won four of their last eight games and finished the season with a 9–7 record.[7] Berry's importance to the team was reflected less in his initial win-loss record than in the respect he immediately earned in the locker room – according to running back Tony Collins, "Raymond Berry earned more respect in one day than Ron Meyer earned in three years".[28]

In the 1985 season, the team improved further, posting an 11–5 record and making the playoffs as a wild card team. They went on to become the first team in NFL history to advance to the Super Bowl by winning three playoff games on the road, defeating the New York Jets 26–14, the Los Angeles Raiders 27–20, and the Miami Dolphins 31–14.[29][30] It was the first time the Patriots had beaten the Dolphins at the Orange Bowl (Miami's then home stadium) since 1966, Miami's first season as a franchise. The Patriots had lost to the Dolphins there 18 consecutive times, including a 30–27 loss in Week 15 of the regular season.[31] Despite the Patriots' success in the playoffs, they proved unable to compete with the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, losing 46–10 in what was at the time the most lopsided defeat in Super Bowl history. "We couldn't protect the quarterback, and that was my fault. I couldn't come up with a system to handle the Bears' pass rush", Berry acknowledged.[32]

The following season, Berry's Patriots again recorded an 11–5 record and made the playoffs, but this time lost in the first round of the postseason. That would be the last time the Patriots would make the playoffs with Berry as their coach. They narrowly missed the playoffs with an 8–7 record in 1987 (during a strike-shortened season) and a 9–7 record in 1988. Then in Berry's last year as a coach, the Patriots finished the 1989 season 5–11. New Patriots team owner Victor Kiam demanded Berry relinquish control over personnel and reorganize his staff; Berry refused and was fired.[33] His regular season coaching record was 48–39 (.552) and 3–2 (.600) in the playoffs.

After a year out of coaching, Berry joined Wayne Fontes' staff with the Detroit Lions in 1991 as their quarterbacks coach. After one season he joined Dan Reeves' staff with the Denver Broncos in 1992 as their quarterbacks coach. Reeves was fired after that season, along with his entire staff, and Berry retired from coaching.

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NE 1984 4 4 0 .500 2nd in AFC East - -
NE 1985 11 5 0 .688 3rd in AFC East 3 1 .750 Lost Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears.
NE 1986 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost in Divisional Round to Denver Broncos.
NE 1987 8 7 0 .533 2nd in AFC East - -
NE 1988 9 7 0 .563 3rd in AFC East - -
NE 1989 5 11 0 .313 4th in AFC East - -
Total 48 39 0 .552 3 2 .600

Honors and later life[edit]

In 1973, Berry was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In 1999, he was ranked No. 40 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.[34]

Berry lives with his wife in Tennessee.[35] On February 5, 2012, Berry (with his strong ties to both teams playing in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants and the Patriots) presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who awarded it to Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Berry 2016, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Raymond Berry Bio". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 11, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Newell, Cliff (February 10, 1985). "Raymond Berry: Underestimated Champion : Skinny Little Receiver Looked More Like a Candidate for the Hospital Than a Football Immortal at Schreiner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Past Athletic Hall of Honor". Schreiner University. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Wills 2004, p. 348.
  6. ^ a b Olesker, p. 105.
  7. ^ a b Donaldson, Jim (December 20, 1985). "Berry Again Overcomes The Skeptics". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Berry 2016, p. 13.
  9. ^ Berry 2016, p. 12.
  10. ^ a b Gregory, Sean (December 29, 2008). "Legends of the NFL's "Greatest Game Ever"". Time. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Wills 2004, p. 359.
  12. ^ a b c Roberts, Rich (January 20, 1986). "The Meticulous Motivator Raymond Berry: Locked Into His Own Private World, He's Still Been Able to Leave It Long Enough to Reach the Hall of Fame and Super Bowl". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Unitas' Score Wins for Colts Over 'Skins in Last Minute, 21-17". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. November 11, 1957. p. 27. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Raymond Berry Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  15. ^ "1958 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Baltimore Colts at New York Giants – December 28th, 1958". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Triple crown for receivers". Sporting News via Chicago Tribune. December 18, 2003. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  18. ^ Porter, David L. (2004). Latino and African American Athletes Today: A Biographical Dictionary (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 156. ISBN 0313320489. 
  19. ^ "1959 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  20. ^ "New York Giants at Baltimore Colts – December 27th, 1959". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  21. ^ Sell, Jack (December 28, 1959). "Colts Destroy Giants for Pro Crown, 31–16". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 20. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  22. ^ "1960 NFL Leaders and Leaderboards". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Raymond Berry 1960 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  24. ^ "1960 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Unitas' Last-Second Pass Nips East, 31–20". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 15, 1962. p. 23. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Cleveland Wallops Baltimore, 27–0". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. November 28, 1964. p. 1D. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  27. ^ Couch, Dick (September 5, 1968). "Dallas Top Grid Choice". The Evening News. Associated Press. p. 6B. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  28. ^ Felger 2006, p. 76.
  29. ^ Rattey, Chris (October 8, 2015). "Squish the Fish: 1985 Patriots run one of the greatest in NFL history". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  30. ^ Goldberg, Jeff (January 24, 1997). "Ah Yes, The '85 Pats: They Were Never Dull". Hartford Courant. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Patriots break jinx vs. Miami". Bangor Daily News. Associated Press. January 13, 1986. p. 8. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  32. ^ Felger 2006, p. 80.
  33. ^ "Patriots Fire Berry; Rust in Line for Job". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. February 27, 1990. Retrieved January 11, 2017. 
  34. ^ "Sporting News Top 100 Football Players". Democrat and Chronicle. August 15, 1999. p. 3D. Retrieved November 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  35. ^ Klingaman, Mike (December 15, 2009). "Catching Up With...former Colt Raymond Berry". The Toy Department (The Baltimore Sun sports blog). Retrieved January 10, 2017.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Berry, Raymond; Stewart, Wayne (2016). All the Moves I Had: A Football Life. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1493017810. 
  • Felger, Michael (2006). Tales from the Patriots Sideline (illustrated, reprint ed.). Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1596701544. 
  • Olesker, Michael (October 13, 2008). "5: Father Raymond Berry". The Colts' Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s (illustrated ed.). JHU Press. ISBN 0801890624. 
  • Wills, Garry (2004). "37: Raymond Berry". Lead Time: A Journalist's Education (illustrated, reprint ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0618446907. 

External links[edit]