Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced on Monday during his weekly press conference that All-American kick returner Evan Berry would be out the rest of the 2017 season because of an injury. And because Berry played in the second half of the season in Tennessee’s game against Southern Miss, the senior isn’t eligible for a medical redshirt.
That means Berry’s season-ending injury is also career-ending for his time with the Vols.
Berry only registered stats in two games for Tennessee this season, returning two kickoffs apiece against Georgia Tech and Southern Miss. He averaged 35.8 yards a return on his four kick returns this season.
Entering this season, Berry already held several Vol records as a kick returner and was in line to possess several more by season’s end. His 2017 season didn’t go according to plan, however. But Berry still goes down as one of the most prolific special teams players in Tennessee history.
Berry finished just 35 yards short of surpassing Willie Gault for the most kick return yards in school history. Gault totaled 1,854 kick return yards on 78 kickoff returns during his Vol career. Berry finishes his Tennessee career with 1,820 yards on 25 fewer returns than Gault.
That’s not the only area where Berry rivaled Gault either. Berry finishes tied with Gault for the most kick return touchdowns in a career with four, and he tied with Gault for most in one season when he returned three kickoffs for scores in 2015.
Berry’s 34.3 yard per kick return average goes down as easily the best career mark in program history. Mallon Faircloth is the next-closest Vol with at least 20 career kickoff returns, and he averaged 28.2 yards per return from 1961-63.
Berry is the only Vol in school history with two 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He returned a kick 100 yards against Kentucky in 2015 and did so again in 2016 against South Carolina. He also had a 96-yard return for a score against Arkansas in 2015.
Not only was Berry exceptional as a kick returner, but he showed off that return prowess on defense in Tennessee’s 2015 bowl game against Northwestern when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds of Tennessee’s 45-6 victory.
Berry was a first-team All-American by several outlets after the 2015 and 2016 seasons and was a first-team All-SEC player before the start of the 2016 and 2017 season.
Berry’s name, much like his older brother, Eric, is littered all over Tennessee’s record books. He goes down as arguably the best kick returner in school history, and he will forever be remembered as one of the best special teams players Tennessee has ever had.