With the pomp and circumstance that constantly hovers around the game of college football, it is easy for fans to overlook the fact that these are not only athletes but student-athletes. The ability to succeed both on and off the field is something that should make all fans proud of these young men. The importance of academic achievement for student athletes manifested itself through the accomplishments on and off the field of people like Raymond Berry. Raymond Berry's achievements while at SMU and beyond have earned him a place in our list of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
Following his graduation from Paris High School, Berry attended Schreiner Junior College in Kerrville before being offered a one-year scholarship to SMU as an incentive to make the team. He caught only five passes as a sophomore and did not even letter. Despite the fact that Berry caught just 11 passes in 144 yards during in his junior season and had never started a game in his career, his teammates elected him as co-captain in 1954.
He was such a student of the game that he made consensus All-SWC in a year in which he caught only 16 passes. He was the leader of a team that finished 6-3-1 season and a 4-1-1 conference record, the school's best year since the champions of 1948. That same year, Berry was named an Academic All-American, an honor founded by former SMU Sport Information Director Lester Jordan.
To really understand how amazing Berry's accomplishments were, take the following information into account. He had difficulties with his vision because he had been diagnosed as being nearsighted, a condition which led to him being the first professional player to wear contact lenses. He also suffered through a congenital back condition which forced him to wear a back brace underneath his uniform padding. It was known as a sacroiliac condition which is severe discomfort in the lower back in the area where the base of the spine meets the pelvis. He also had one leg shorter than the other which would intensify his back pain at times. Despite all of these ailments, Berry played both ways.
It was through ceaseless attention to detail and a tireless work ethic, that this man who caught only 32 passes in three years at SMU went on to become one of the greatest pass receivers in the history of football. He applied this dedication to all aspects of life. Few people knew that Berry would bring a portable typewriter on road trips while in the NFL so that he could personally answer his fan mail and even outline pass routes for kids who idolized him.
He was a 20th round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts in 1955 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973. As a player, he played in the three NFL championship games and five Pro Bowls. He also went on to be head coach of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl team during the 1985 season. In 1991, for the 75th Anniversary of SMU football, Berry was named to the All-Time offense team at wide receiver. In 2000, he had his No. 87 retired from further use by the Mustang program.
Raymond Berry, like his former teammate and friend Forrest Gregg, was the type of person and football player that all Mustangs should strive to emulate. For his efforts and accomplishments on and off the field, Raymond Berry takes his rightful place in our list of 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.