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Damien Berry: New father, new leader

Damien Berry feels faster and stronger than he did a year ago. That's bad news for the teams on UM's schedule, because when Berry finally got a chance to carry the football last season he was pretty good at it.

Damien Berry Berry said Wednesday he's weighing 220 pounds, about 13 pounds more than he did at the end of last season. But added bulk isn't the only thing new in his life. Berry has added two new responsibilities to his plate entering his senior season: being a father and being leader. And both he believes will make him even better in 2010.

A day after the Hurricanes lost to Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, Berry rushed home for the birth of his daughter, K'mahri, on New Year's Eve. He said she's added a whole new perspective to his life.

"She's amazing," Berry said. "Now, everything I do, I think about her. I know I have to work hard to be able to support her."

Described by teammate Vaughn Telemaque as "a guy you once saw chilling everywhere," Berry says being a father has calmed him down. "All that going out, I can't do that anymore," Berry said. 

Three times a week, Berry said, his ex-girlfriend will drop K'mahri off at his home for a few hours, where he'll get to be dad before he heads off for class and training.

"[Fullback] Pat Hill just said 'It's going to take a lot of patience',"  Berry says with a grin. "I buy her shoes, play with her, feed her, change her diaper if I have to. But the diaper thing really isn't my forte."

Being in the spotlight at UM has never been either for Berry. But with Javarris James gone and senior Graig Cooper trying to make it back from a torn ACL, Berry will enter camp on Aug. 5 expected to be the first person quarterback Jacory Harris hands the ball off to for the majority of the season. It wasn't until the fifth game of last season that Berry touched the ball at all as a Cane. 

Damien Berry Brought in as a change-of-pace back for Cooper and James usually in the second half, Berry quickly became a crowd favorite for his straight-ahead, bulldozing-style of running. With Miami trailing Duke, fans at Sun Life Stadium began chanting "Berry! Berry!" in the second half and helped lead a Canes come-from-behind win. Berry finished the year with 616 yards (6.6 a carry) and a team-leading eight touchdowns.

But being the main man in UM's backfield? That's a label Berry, a team-first spokesman, isn't ready to accept even if sophomore Mike James (15 carries, 46 yards) and oft-injured junior Lee Chambers (60 carries, 272 yards) are the only other healthy players heading into camp who have taken a handoff at this level.

"I'm just going to try to be the best back," Berry said. "As far as being that [featured] guy I don't know. I still have to outwork Coop, Mike James and those young-ins, Lamar [Miller], Storm [Johnson], [Eduardo] Clements and Darion Hall. So, I still have to work hard. We'll push each other, and if I'm the No. 1 guy I'll be the No. 1 guy."

Berry, who was the No. 1 guy his senior year at Glades Central and led his team to a state title despite playing on a torn ACL, said his goal this offseason was to prepare himself for having to carry the load if needed. A big part of that, too, was pass blocking. "My pass protection has always been OK, but I want to be great," Berry said. "The less [quarterback] Jacory [Harris] gets touched, the better."

His main focus, though, he said Wednesday, is being a veteran leader and making sure the guys behind him can handle the job if anybody were to go down with an injury.

"What I learned from Javarris and what he learned from the guys before him is you have to teach the guys behind you everything, every detail," Berry said. "God forbid any of us go down, I want those young guys to be ready and not worry about being scared, or the bubble guts, or anything like that. I want them to be able to take my spot in an instant."

SOME MORE CANES NUGGETS...

> IS COOP REALLY GOING TO BE READY? Tino Thomas, the father of running back Graig Cooper, has been telling reporters for months his son is planning on being back in time for the start of the season as long as he doesn't have any setbacks following knee surgery. The way his teammates have been talking about Cooper the last two weeks, you almost have to wonder if it's really possible. Wednesday, all three teammates made available to reporters spoke as if Cooper would be ready to go. 

"I wouldn't doubt him coming back this season at all," Telemaque said. "He's working extremely hard, always getting treatment, always around the team, always lifting weights, whatever it takes. He's not using his knee as an excuse for anything. We see it as if he's going to be with the team. He tells us through his work ethic that his plans are to come back and be the same as he was before. If you ask me, he's going to play and make an impact."

Joel Figueroa> WILL FIGUEROA SLIDE OVER TO TACKLE?: I first heard about this in the spring and I heard it again Wednesday -- do not to be surprised if senior Joel Figueroa ends up sliding over to right tackle and starting there if Jermaine Johnson, Ben Jones or even Seantrel Henderson don't prove themselves worthy of the job in camp. 

Figueroa, who has played guard most of his career, is coming off shoulder surgery and has played some tackle in spot duties during games. Johnson and Jones were expected to compete for the starting job before Henderson headed for Coral Gables. UM has a history of starting the five best linemen, regardless of where they play.

Also heard true freshman Brandon Linder has been very impressive upon arrival in workouts and nobody would be surprised if he gave Tyler Horn a serious fight for the starting center job. 

> VILMA DELIVERING STRONG MESSAGE OF UNITY: Having former Canes in the NFL come in for summer workouts and heart-to-heart conversations with current players is nothing new at UM. This summer, though, Vaughn Telemaque said players have been seeing a lot more of Saints Pro Bowl and Super Bowl winning linebacker Jonathan Vilma. 

"He's been a really vocal guy," Telemaque said. "That's what coach [Andrew] Swasey said he was like when he was here. Swasey said he would always let his teammates know the importance of winning, the importance of coming together and being one unit."

Telemaque said Vilma spent a lot of time this summer sharing stories and comparing his time with the Jets and the Saints. 

"He told us how his time with the Jets, there were altercations, fights, people weren't doing what they were supposed to," Telemaque said. "He said during the championship year with the Saints, nobody had a problem on the team. Everybody was on the same page and they won the Super Bowl. He said we could be just like them."

"I think that's why a lot of us are trying to be more vocal, feeding off each other. It's like we all watch each other's backs."

Comments

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Congratulation D. Berry, best of wishes to your new addition and your families, at home and at the U!

get it done guys ,this is YOUR YEAR...............

you know its really awesome that this team has stayed off the news for the wrong reasons. You look at USC, lane kiffin (and everything around him), and now the issues with UF, its great to be a miami hurricane. randy shannon has done great off the field, now its time to make it happen on the field! earn that paycheck shannon!

Well done Vilma! He's there, Reed's there. I know they always come back and help, but there seems to be something in the air down there this summer. Something special is happening, and even Shannon, the eternal pessimist, is smiling.

Nothing has happened yet and nothing is guaranteed, but I'm looking forward to this season more than I have any other in a while. The last two seasons have been more about looking forward to watching players grow and develop. This year is more about excitement for the year.

But whatever happens, just lay the wood on Ohio State and Florida State.

Go Canes!

1st!!!

Welcome back Manny, we missed the scoop you always deliver!

Awesome article Manny!!!

GO CANES!!!

I am so happy that we have some football news again. Marlins are boring, and other than Lebron giving us some hope, the Dolphins and Heat and Panthers are in offseason.

Thanks Manny, and thanks for keeping the blog free of a certain obsessed troll that ruined this blog for regular readers. I know the delay in posting can be annoying, but the alternative is the mess we saw here before.

If IP banning won't work on him, then keep going with the filtering. It makes a difference.

That's what I'm talking about! Competition, desire, never give up. Don't let the outside influence you or your play and attitude. Listen to the people who've been there - Reed, Wayne, Vilma - learn everyday, push each other everyday. One play at a time - Can't wait for football. God Bless everyone on the blog, newspaper, Canes fans and the world.

I love hear this about Vilma. Can't wait.

I love hearing this about Vilma. Can't wait.

How great is it to have NFL pro bowlers come back and impart words of wisdom to these CANES. No other school has this advantage!

Its all about THE "U"!

GO CANES!

Brand New. Great isnt good enough for []_[]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX5P-5eqqew

You would be suprised how a full stadium helps with "THE U" "SWAGGER"...... buy some friggin' tickets people. I drive 4 hours each way to all the home games and some of the away games,(S.FL.,GT,FSU,UCF). I know of four fans in N. central fl. that hold season tickets that fill 12 seats.If we can do it hthis far away anyone from daytona bch. southshould have no excuse.If this is the year you may miss it. Nothing like live games.

Jets Suck!! even Vilma says soo...

I don't want to wish bad on a player, but I hope cooper is not ready. We have a great stable of backs at UM. I was glad to see baby James and Cooper leave. The season can be great all the way around. We need a fresh start in the backfield!!

Love watching you run Berry.
Listen those defenders in front of you,
are in the way of what you want to give your girl.

you know what to do!!
Go canes!!

thats a beautiful child that berry has. god bless her.

Our schedule is ROUGH...but, that's what we will need to keep this team "grounded" - games at OSU, PITT, CLEMSON, then coming home to play FREE SHOES UNIVERSITY - not an easy schedule to start the season....then, home games vs N.Carolina and V.Tech (PAYBACK TIME FOR BOTH OF THEM!!).

GO CANES!!

Berry should have gotten 1000 plusyd slast year, but wasnt given the ball enough. RS was stubborn in holdinghim back. Especially during the bowl. A big guy like thatshould be getting the ball 20-25 times a game.

Its good to start hearing news on the Canes. This could be the year that the Canes get back into the top 5. Jacory has been getting progressively better year after year. I hope this is his breakout year, that will put the U back where it belongs. In the top of the rankings !

its starting to sound like the old days are returning to the U. I am so pumped for this season. I think we are going to catch a lot of people off guard. Including those B"UT"T Kissing ESPN analysts.

Vilma delivering the message I said was going to be important for success this season: Unity.

Welcome to fatherhood, Mr. Berry

Yes - more Berry. Seems pretty obvious!

Man...I am so pumped up for this season fellow Canes..I can feel it coming in the air tonight..it feels different that last year, and the year before. I feel like this team is going to be special. I can feel the tide is changing, and am ready to enjoy the ride. GO CANES!

I met Damien Berry on two occasions last year and both times he was gracious first, to sign a pennant out side Hecht and after the Clemson game I spoke with him briefly. He is a very nice young man and I continue to pray that the Lord lifts him up to great heights. He deserves it, he has worked for it and now he has even greater responsibilities having a daughter. I wish him the very best and know that he will give the U and his fans the best effort he has every play, every game.

Berry, Berry, Berry......

Thanks Manny for another great interview.

Our back field is stacked this year even without Cooper. Don't get me wrong, I love Cooper, his jersey was the first canes jersey I ever bought. We have so much talent in the back field without Barry and Cooper. I am really excited about every position this year with ray ray, Henderson, Ford, and so many other players that we have picked up this year and last. With the potential that we have all over the field on offense and defense, we should be in the top three if we utilize everyone and they preform up to their expectations.

GO CANES GO. UNITY IS STRENGTH THAT CANNOT BE DIVIDED. PSALMS 40

Manny...keep these interviews comin they're great. It does feel like back in the day football wise but add to the mix what coach Shannon has done off the field and my pride in being a Cane is boundless

RANDY SHANNON WOULD HAVE BEEN GREAT IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. HE'S A GREAT DISCIPLINARIAN AND KNOWS HOW TO USE HIS TROOPS WELL. I AM VERY GLAD THOUGH HE CHOSE TO COACH THE UM. IF THERE IS A BETTER COACH FOR ACADEMICS, DISCIPLINE AND WINNING. EYE HAVEN'T SEEN HIM. GO CANES GO. PSALMS 100

Always heard so much negative talk about Shannon, but many of us forget why he was brought in...We didnt have the kinda money for the big name coaches. I think he has done an awesome job. If you know anything about recruiting it takes about 4 yrs to get your players in and get your system matted. Listen to these kids talk, they have the talent, but are totally different from what we are used to mentally. He's preparing them for life after football. Job well done Randy. Canes forever!

Congrats to my former student and good friend Damien Berry!! You deserve nothing but the best bruh! Here's to a successful senior campaign, fatherhood and a bright future. Love ya boy!

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