Like Father Like Son
By Elliot Goldenberg
Drafted by the NFL's San Diego Chargers, Kenny Berry is proud that he was a starting defensive back for the University of Miami and played on the 1989 team that won the school's third national championship. Today, as an ordained minister living in Lake Worth, he is equally proud of his son, Damien Berry, who also played for the "U." He was signed, in 2011, as a free agent running back by the Baltimore Ravens and lives in Maryland. We caught up with both of them on the morning of the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
What was high point in your career, Kenny?
"The national championship in Miami in 1987 and 1989."
What was the most valuable lesson you learned as a professional athlete?
Kenny: "You appreciate your God-given gifts and talents. You are blessed to be there."
Damien: "Patience. You've got to have patience with learning, the other players, your footwork and with God."
Is there anything you would change about the game of professional football?
Kenny: "I had great coaches. I wouldn't change anything. It's a great game. It teaches social skills, how to be part of a team and go forth and take care of a job, and also how to face adversity."
Kenny, I know that today you're an ordained minister. Do you have a title? Where is your church?
"I'm the senior pastor at the Grace Fellowship Worship Center in Belle Glade, Florida."
I'm sure you're proud of all of your children, but what makes you especially proud of your son, Damien?
"Damien has great character. He's a stand-up man, and a God-fearing man. And he's very humble and hard-working. It hasn't always been easy for him, and he always had to prove himself.
So I'm especially proud of his work ethic."
Did you encourage or discourage Damien from playing football?
"I never discouraged him, but football was never discussed at home. In fact, the first time I ever threw a football at him, he was already in the tenth grade. But he was around football because I was coaching. Actually, he was more into playing soccer."
Kenny, do your other children play sports?
"All my kids are athletes. I have an older son who played professional basketball overseas and he's now a Little League basketball coach. I have a daughter who was a star athlete both in basketball and track. And I have another son who we're trying to get to play football at the U."
I know your son, Damien, tore his ACL in high school, but somehow played through the injury. Did you ever have a major injury, either in high school, college or the pros?
"I once tore up my ankle pretty bad, but that was about it. My college coach, Jimmy Johnson, made sure we were always very well-conditioned, which I'm sure helped."
Kenny, tell me about your charitable foundation.
"It's called Grace Kids for Life Youth Foundation, and it teaches kids skills for life. There's a five-part component: spirituality, educational needs, life skills, employability skills, and athletics. Damien also has his own foundation called DB for Kids. It serves kids in elementary schools and includes a read-to-ride program."
What about your camp?
"It's a skills' camp held at Pioneer Park in Belle Glade on July 21. A lot of retired players -- like James Pruitt, Bennie Blades and Bobby Harden -- will be there to help."
Damien, what do you most admire about your dad?
"I admire everything about him. He keeps me on track and he showed me how to be a man."
Was it difficult to follow in your father's footsteps?
"I really had to create my own footsteps because I wanted to be known as Damien Berry, not just the son of Kenny Berry."
Damien, with your livelihood always in jeopardy, does the NFL draft worry you, especially if the Ravens take another running back?
"No. You just have to work hard, believe in yourself, and be confident in what you can do."
Tell me about DB for Kids.
"It's to help underprivileged kids who are struggling. It's to let them know that, if they're having a bad day, things could be worse. We want them to know that dreams can come true."
How do you want to be remembered?
Kenny: "I want to be remembered for the life I live now and as a man changing the world for Christ."
Damien: "Not just as a football player, but as a man who was always dedicated to kids and helping the community."