13-Year-Old Evan Berry Commits to Tennessee: Progress or Problem?

Ryan WinnAnalyst IJune 29, 2009

As puberty begins to run its course and adolescence starts its full swing, 13-year-old Evan Berry has already decided where he wants to play big-time college football.

Berry, the younger brother of current Tennessee safety Eric Berry, told Yahoo! Sports that he plans to follow in his brother's footsteps and play for the Volunteers after he graduates from Creekside High School in Georgia.

"Yes, I committed to Tennessee," Evan said. "It's the only college I know right now, and it seems the best for me. My dad went there and my brother is there now. I know I can do the same things there. I have a real friendly relationship with the coaches there. I know I don't know them too well, but I know I will have plenty of time to get to know them."

How could this be good for anyone?

There is absolutely no problem with a child setting dreams. Most young boys dream of suiting up for their favorite college on Saturdays, and only a very select few are able to actually do so.

An even smaller number get to do it for free.

While the University of Tennessee has had no official comment on the verbal commitment yet, one would assume that Berry, just like everyone else who makes a verbal or signed commitment, would be entitled to a free ride.

How many high school freshmen already know free college is in their future?

The Young Get Younger

Berry's commitment is not the first example of a just-turned-teenager committing to a college in the past few years.

Last year, Michael Avery, a then-eighth grader, made a verbal commit to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, and he was offered a scholarship without one high school game played.

Avery's father Howard recalled the recruitment as a surreal moment.

"We talked for a while and he said, 'I like your son. In fact, I like him so much I want to offer him a scholarship here at Kentucky.' I was like, 'You're joking, right?' He said, 'Nope. I'm serious. I really love the way he plays,'" said Avery.

Last year, Washington State made program history by locking up defensive end Aaron Dunn, a 6'6" then-sophomore in high school, to play for the Cougars.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced about David Sills, a mere 12-year-old, who was already receiving interest to play quarterback at a big-time school.

How young is too young? According to legislation passed by the NCAA this January, children are considered eligible for recruitment by grade seven. Joe D’Antonio, chairman of the NCAA Division I Legislative Council, said he fears for the future of college recruiting.

"It’s a little scary only because—we talked about this—where does it stop? The fact that we’ve got to this point is really just a sign of the times," said D'Antonio.

Freshman Frenzy

Perhaps the strangest facet of the recent commitment is the amount of support and excitement coming out of the Tennessee faithful.

On the blog site "3rd Saturday in Blogtober," a user known only as "colts18" wrote a quick blurb on Berry's decision, and he ended his blog on a positive note.

"It’s a few years away before either (or both) of these guys will be suiting up in orange and white, but just the thought of it is very exciting to say the least," wrote the blogger.

The "both" being mentioned refers to Evan and twin brother Elliot, who has not made a decision on what college he would like to attend.

The fact that his commitment is not being seen with skepticism from the Tennessee fanbase is strange, especially considering all the criticism Lane Kiffin has taken since arriving as the program's new head coach.

After the uproar that came out after Tennessee signed convicted criminals, it would be reasonable to believe that some sort of outrage would come from offering a spot on the roster to a 13-year-old from a moral, if not a fear for their team, standpoint.

Perhaps it is due to the success of older brother Eric in a Vols uniform. In comments on a thread on VolNation.com, a user known as "volfreak1964" expressed his excitements over the news.

"This is Awesome I just Hope that Eric STays one more year [sic] !!!" said the user.

While it's easy to be excited for a young man's commitment to his future, it's surprising to see such little disdain for the direction of the program.


It was a shock to the system when Kiffin was hired, as he is merely a few years older than the players he preaches to. Is Kiffin, with the pressure of keeping the program afloat, setting a bad principle for college football's future?


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