NFL players use different methods to get through injuries. Rehab is a common theme, of course, but those endless days and late nights when you're wondering about your future as a professional athlete can get rough. Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, one of the league's elite players at his position, had this problem through the 2011 season after he suffered torn left ACL on the second play of the Chiefs' opener against the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs' 41-7 loss, the worst in a regular-season opener in franchise history, was made worse by the loss of their best defensive player. It was especially tough for Berry because the former Tennessee star played every possible snap of his rookie year in 2010.
When Berry started his long road back to the NFL, he leaned on writing to help him through. As in a LOT of writing. As in songs, three screenplays, and over 200 poems.
"I really leaned on my poetry and my writing throughout the whole process," Berry recently told Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star. "You do a lot of sitting up by yourself … a lot of looking at the ceiling. That's what I did in my spare time between playing video games … I wanted to get my thoughts on paper."
Berry was particularly intrigued by the moon; that process that began from a writing perspective when he was particularly dejected about his inability to get on the field.
"Even as a kid, the full moon always intrigued me," he said. "I looked up at the full moon, contemplated it and wondered if it sees me, and knowing what I'm going through and knowing all my struggles ... I went through so many different stages …" he said of his rehab process. "I wrote the poem about the moon on one of my days when I was like, 'Damn, when is it going to stop?' I happened to look up at the moon, and it was a full moon in a time of darkness."
Berry was inspired to pen this:
"In times of darkness, when things are going wrong, just like when night falls and you can't see your way, the full moon always has light to guide your way. The moon borrows light from the sun. Everybody knows the sun is going to shine, right? But the moon is so special, it takes some of the light from the sun and gives it to people who can't see in the dark."
Berry says that he's been writing since he was a kid, and he's not averse to the occasional poetry slam.
"I do a lot of performing in front of my friends at home," he told Covitz. "I just stand up and go off, and everyone in the house is listening to me do poems, and I just freestyle a poem off the top of my head. Sometimes they think it's just a speech or something …. I pick a subject, and it will be so random, out of the blue. … Give me a subject and I take it from there."
Safety Kendrick Lewis, who will be patrolling the Chiefs' defensive backfield with a fully recovered Berry in 2012, said that "Eric has a great mind. He thinks a lot, and he likes to write. He does a great job of how he writes it and how he puts things in perspective, not just football but about life in general. It's not just poems. We talk a lot, so I learn something from him every day, and he learns stuff from me every day."
"A lot of people don't know how my brain works," Berry concluded. "I see the bigger picture … my teammates call me weird. Someone called me strange last week, and I take it as a compliment, just because, who wants to be normal? I'm the type of guy who is going to be himself.
"My dad always told me, 'Be yourself because everybody else is taken.' "