Jordan Berry is as spectacular on the football field as he is unassuming off of it. The soft-spoken Dutch Fork senior receiver has produced eye-popping numbers this year despite being the focus of opposing defenses each week.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Berry has 74 catches for 1,207 yards and six touchdowns. Add in three punt return touchdowns and it’s mind boggling that Berry was left off the Sandlappers’ team for the upcoming Shrine Bowl that pits South Carolina against North Carolina.
Even in his quiet, low-key demeanor, it was evident Berry was hurt in not being included on the team.
“I was expecting to make the team,” Berry said. “I was disappointed in myself because I felt like I let the whole school and community down.”
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Berry went to the Shrine Bowl Combine earlier this season and ran a 4.6 40 on a sprained ankle. He wasn’t sure if that played a part in not making the team.
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts thought his star receiver had done enough to make the team, but when it comes to selecting All-Star teams, nothing surprises him anymore.
“I’m never surprised about anything concerning the Shrine Bowl,” Knotts said. “Every year, you get different coaches, and they have different ideas and philosophies. That’s why we pick different head coaches every year, we trust them to do what they think is best. He’s having a great year. Hopefully he’ll get selected for the North-South game, but we’re not worried about what other people are thinking.”
Both Berry and Knotts point back to the Goose Creek game as the turning point for Berry and maybe for the Silver Foxes season, even though the Gators, the top-ranked team in the state, claimed a 28-17 victory.
Tramel Terry, a Georgia commitment considered the top prospect in the state, was on defense when Berry had a breakout performance. He caught a school-record 15 passes for 230 yards and touchdown. On the first play of the game, quarterback Derek Olenchuk threw into double-coverage, and Berry came down with the ball between Terry and another defender before breaking a tackle to race 76 yards for the score.
“That was a big moment,” Berry said. “Every time we got the ball, I felt like I needed to do something big.”
Knotts has seen a different player in Berry since that game. The long-time high school coach knows a thing or two about big-time receivers. While at Independence High in Charlotte, he coached future NFL players Hakeem Nicks and Mohamed Massaquoi.
“I’ve coached a lot of kids that are fast that don’t know how to use their speed on the football field,” Knotts said. “Not to be negative, but I had kind of gotten to that point with Jordan. But since that Goose Creek game, he has really asserted himself more. Before that, because he’s so quiet and unassuming, it’s almost like he didn’t want to stand out.”
Berry holds the school record with 2,503 receiving yards, and he is nearing the top spot for career receptions and touchdown receptions. He has 157 catches in his three varsity seasons, nine shy of Mike Gasparato’s school record. He is tied with former teammate Shaq Price with 15 career touchdown receptions.
He likely could pass both of those marks tonight when Dutch Fork (5-3, 2-0 Region 5-4A) travels to White Knoll (6-2, 1-1).
“I used to tell our quarterbacks to go through their progressions and get the ball where it belongs,” Knotts said. “But now, I tell him to start with Jordan. If you think he has a chance, throw him the ball. I’d like him to touch it 20-25 times a game as we hopefully move to the playoffs.”
Berry has yet to get many looks from college recruiters. It might be because of his small frame, but the results speak for themselves. He is planning to visit Georgia Tech in November, but outside of that, the biggest program that has shown serious interest has been Elon. Knotts tries to let coaching friends at the next level know that they are missing on something special with Berry.
“The smaller colleges are calling about him,” Knotts said. “I don’t know what the hold-up is because I truly think he is a D-I player. He is really coming into his own.”