Evan and Elliott Berry are two of the most conspicuous freshmen high school football players in the south.
The arrival of the twins at Creekside High in Fairburn has been heavily anticipated after the accomplishments of their older brother Eric Berry, who was an All-America safety at Tennessee and was selected No. 5 overall in this year’s NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“In the state of Georgia, because of what their older brother has done, they are two freshmen that everybody really knows about,” said Banneker coach Ed Gosa, whose team dropped a 25-6 decision to Creekside three weeks ago.
“Right now, I’d say they are holding their own. Eric dominated as a freshman and could change a game. The twins are not there yet, but they are going to be.”
Last year, the baby-faced brothers had a rapid rise in stardom when a recruiting website reported that Evan was offered a football scholarship by Tennessee and committed at the tender age of 13 years old and while still in middle school.
The story was almost instantly picked up by other media outlets and became a popular topic on message boards. While it was later determined Tennessee hadn’t offered anything, their names have nevertheless stuck in recruiting circles.
Now that Evan and Elliott are playing both ways on the Creekside varsity, they appear off to a good start in meeting all the hype.
“I know they get a lot of attention but the twins are really playing football above what I expected so far this season,” Creekside coach Johnny White said.
Behind the contributions of the twins, Creekside is off to a 3-1 start and plays host to Jonesboro (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Evan and Elliott have caused longtime Creekside fans to have flashbacks to their older brother, who ranked as the state’s No. 1 prospect as a Seminoles senior in 2006.
“For me, Evan is like Eric reincarnated,” White said. “It seems like after every game this year, I’ll have someone tell me ‘That looks like Eric out there again at quarterback.’”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Evan plays the same positions as Eric had: quarterback and safety. He gets to throw the ball more than his older brother did, after Creekside switched from the Wing-T to a Spread offense. Through four games, Evan has passed for nine touchdowns while running for three others.
“It’s great playing the same positions because Eric talks to me all the time about how to get better at both of them,” Evan said.
The other twin, Elliott, is 6-foot and 193 pounds and taller than both of his brothers. He plays tailback and linebacker, leading Creekside with a 44 tackles. On his first offensive touch of the season, he sprinted for a 50-yard touchdown run against Westlake in an August scrimmage.
“[Elliott] is one tough kid,” said Morrow coach Niketa Battle, whose team lost in the season opener to Creekside 47-0.
“He had a 40-yard run on us. Later, he took a real big hit against us on the goal line and didn’t get in [to score]. But he just popped back up and ran back to huddle as if the big hit never happened. For a freshman, that was pretty darn good.”
Gosa also had high praise for Elliott, saying, “He is the one. I think he’s going to be the superstar before it’s over with. He’s big and fast and hits the corners really hard with his speed.”
So far, the twins have dealt well with the pressures of following in the footsteps of one of the state’s all-time greats. Eric’s No. 10 Creekside jersey was retired last year and hangs in the school’s gym.
“They’ve handled it well and are humbled with the successes they’ve already had. … If not, they have a mom and dad that keep them down to Earth,” said their father, James Berry. “They are hard workers and the coaches see that. They’ve haven’t been given anything except for what they have earned on their own. They don’t see themselves as living in the shadows of Eric. They are paving out their own path.”
For better or worse, the twins are mini-celebrities because of their NFL sibling. Opposing fans have heckled them, saying things such as “Ya’ll are not Eric.” When the team took a field trip to watch Eric and Chiefs play the Falcons in an exhibition, they were recognized.
“There were fans at the Georgia Dome yelling, ‘There they go! Those are the twins,’” White said. “[But] they’ve adjusted to it. They would much rather just be one of the guys.”
Said Elliott, “People will say things to us, but it’s all good. We’re just regular kids.”