In the race for a Heisman bid, University of Tennessee defensive back Eric Berry is surrounded by carefully worded billboards, a phalanx of PR flacks, and a battalion of sportswriters ready to record his every utterance. But he does his best writing for himself—on Twitter. As berry14, he's made 917 tweets since May 15 and is followed by 3,960 people (as of 1:33 p.m. Sept. 1, and growing).
The words are strictly PG-rated—after all, while the profile belongs to Berry, everything he tweets will be considered to represent the team and the school. But somehow his humor, praise, and gentle taunts shine through the self-censorship; he can pack a lot of charm and information into 140 characters or less.
"I think camera men would make great defensive backs," reads a Tweetdeck offering, 5:09 p.m. July 24, just as the school is poised to launch its Berry4Heisman campaign. "They have smooth back pedals and can change directions quickly. I tested them today.Lol"
Berry's real strength, though, are offhand comments and flashes of his personal life, told in a way that keeps followers following tweet to tweet. The tone of his summertime tweets was disarming and amusing, like the spate of "Guess you don't recognize me" incidents he had in late July, early August:
This guy is wearing my jersey in the mall. I wonder if he knows it's me. Lol
7:28 PM Jul 31st
Nope he didn't. Lol
7:37 PM Jul 31st
And again the next day:
This kid just got mad at me for asking for his Eric berry jersey! My bad. Lol
9:01 PM Aug 1st
He just said I looked familiar. I'll let u know when he figures it out. Lol
9:17 PM Aug 1st
He figured it out. Autograph time!!!!! Yeah!!!! Lol
9:20 PM Aug 1st
The mall excursion was not an aberration, either: Berry tweets from some fairly pedestrian spots:
"Lol I just got in trouble for riding a bike around walmart!!!" reads an Aug. 1 entry. "That was a fun high speed chase. I ditched the bike and hid behind the bean bag chairs."
It looks like Berry has pretty much freedom on which shenanigans to report, even though coach Lane Kiffen and some folks from the UT public relations staff are followers. The strongest evidence: he tweeted about the University's support of him as a Heisman candidate, complete with a Twitpic of him standing next to a giant orange 14 jersey... a day before the sports department released the news.
Tiffany Carpenter, Director of Public Relations for UT Athletics, used Twitter herself to kindly remind him: "@berry14 I don't think u were suppose to show it until tomorrow but I'm glad ur excited. 10:46 PM Jul 20th"
Super-alert members of the Big Orange cognoscenti have also started following Emerald Jones, who is a UT student, West Town Mall retail worker, aspiring salon owner—and the apple of Berry's eye. She's got plenty of personal friends among the 213 (as of Sept. 1, 4:56 p.m.) following her at @EmeraldMaserie, but some are clearly there with another agenda, notably Theheismanwatch and Scouting Bureau/Nationwide Network. And while she does toss in a tweet endorsing, say, IVoteBerry here and there, for the most part she's just herself without regard to who's following her and whether they're hoping to read Vol inside information. A disproportionate number of her tweets refer to a love of IHOP, for example, and her need to persevere through a few more classes for her degree. "Wooooosaaa 21 hours away from graduating," she reminded herself Aug. 25.
Her wallpaper on Twitter features her and a grinning Berry; his Twitpics include a sushi night with Jones and a photo of the two in Mississippi, and you can see how her sense of humor dovetails with his own with tweets like:
Aight so am I the only one or did anyone else know that bleach doesnt kill Spiders???
5:17 PM Aug 11th
Now that football season is nigh, the most popular Berry tweets will probably be the ones offering insight into practice and games, not his affection for his girlfriend so much. If pre-season workouts are any indication, Berry will be able to give the people what they want. In one offhand post from July 29, for example, he asserted, "I was just thinking. I've faced alot of running backs and Montario Mardesty is the best one I've went up against. Hands down!!!!!"
And then there is the post that will be hard to top:
I got scratched in workouts somehow and I found out that I really do bleed orange!!!
3:52 PM Jul 22nd