Hall of Famer Raymond Berry sports Vanderbilt tie at Super Bowl XLVIby Nancy Humphrey Feb. 6, 2012, 10:37 AM
Raymond Berry, a former wide receiver for the Baltimore Colts, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and former coach of the New England Patriots, wore a little bit of Vanderbilt at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI when he presented the Vince Lombardi trophy to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following the game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
The 78-year-old Berry wore a tie designed for the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute by his friend Andre Churchwell, associate professor of medicine (cardiology), radiology and biomedical engineering, and associate dean for diversity for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The tie has a black background with tiny gold V’s and a small red heart within each V.
Berry and Johnny Unitas, the Colts’ quarterback, gave the Colts one of the “greatest pass-catch teams of all time,” according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Three straight times Berry led the league in receptions and caught a then-record 631 passes for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in his 13-year career.
Berry’s story is one off “determination, dedication and desire,” according to the Hall of Fame. He wore special shoes because one leg was shorter than the other and didn’t become a starter on his high school football team until his senior year – even though his father was the coach.
“He was a hero of mine as a child growing up in East Nashville,” Churchwell said. “I related to him on a number of levels. He had to wear glasses and he wasn’t the most physically gifted player, but he worked hard. I studied him intensely, like I was studying for an exam. I wrote No. 82 on the back of my t-shirt with a magic marker.”
About two years ago Churchwell found out through a mutual acquaintance that Berry was living in Murfreesboro and asked to meet his childhood hero. The two spent more than two hours together. “I went in with about 50 to 100 questions that I had written down that I wanted to ask him,” Churchwell said.
While playing for the Colts Berry led the league in receptions and caught a then-record 631 passes for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in his 13-year career.
Berry carried the 22-inch, sterling silver trophy to the winner’s stage at midfield, walking through a line of Giants players who reached out to touch the trophy, to kiss it, and to pat him on the back. Berry handed the seven-pound trophy to Goodell on the stage, who presented it to the Giants.