Vols' Berry skipping senior year for pros

ATLANTA -- Tennessee safety Eric Berry is skipping his senior season and entering the NFL draft.

Berry said after Thursday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Virginia Tech that he played his final college game.

Berry, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back, says he wants to help his parents "sit down and relax."

The announcement was no surprise, as Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said he expected to lose Berry. Berry, a junior from Fairburn near Atlanta, is expected to be a high first-round pick.

"I really did go over every possible situation and scenario," Berry said. "I went over it with my coach, I went over it with my parents. Coach just told me this would probably be the best thing for me to do, just to go ahead and go to the draft."

He had four tackles, including one for a loss of 6 yards, in the Vols' 37-14 loss to Virginia Tech.

Berry was one of the last Tennessee players to exit the locker room and speak with reporters after the game.

"I kind of had to get myself together because I really don't want to leave, but I feel like this is just something that I need to do to help my family," Berry said.

"It was something that I could do to just let them sit down and relax and show them my appreciation for what they have done for me."