Esk turns into a star

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Does 'Once An Eskimo -- Always An Eskimo' apply if you were once an Eskimo for two games?

If that's the case, there's an Eskimo in the Super Bowl.

And not just some bit player, but a Pro Bowler who signed a five-year, $25 million contract, at the time the highest in the history of the Arizona Cardinals.

Twenty five million US isn't that far from being the total payroll of the CFL for an entire season. And this guy was an Edmonton Eskimo. For two games.

He's Bertrand Berry.

Remember him?

Me either.

"I'm sure there are a lot of players we had on that team who don't remember him at all and will be flabbergasted to find out they played with a guy who signed a contact for that kind of money and is about to play in the Super Bowl," said Ed Hervey.

"I remember Signor Mobley and I were watching Monday Night Football when we looked at each other and said 'Wait. That was a guy who was here!'

"I remember he didn't do anything when he was here to make anybody believe he'd one day be an All-Pro. He was pretty much like a lot of guys who come here from the NFL and end up wide-eyed about the CFL and made a quick exit.

"I remember we played Montreal and I think he played pretty bad in that game. A lot of guys played pretty bad in that game. I couldn't tell you how he graded out, just that he was gone," he said of the 45-15 loss.

Berry's Arizona Cardinals fact book bio lists his entire 2000 season as being with the Eskimos.

Two games. No sacks.

One tackle. Released.

Tom Higgins was Eskimos' GM under CEO Hugh Campbell that year.

"I remember the name. He's not in the team photo. I'm sure not a lot of people remember him including a lot of the players," said Higgins.

"I remember he had a short cup of coffee. He was still learning how to play. He reminded me of Mike Sellers," he said of the ex-Eskimo now with the Washington Redskins.

"I have to give him credit. Bertrand Berry is a self-made man He did it himself after he left here."

Eskimos U.S. talent scout Paul Jones remembers Berry better.

"I remember there was something pretty comical about his contract. He came to us in late September, so it wasn't for much. It was maybe $30,000 or something. At first he thought it was per game. He came back and asked if that was per game."

Jones has a file on every player in his office in his house in Monroe, La.

"He was a guy who first came out of Notre Dame. He was drafted in the third round, 86th overall, by the Indianapolis Colts. He played there three years. I thought he could be a 'tweener. He was only about 240-pounds then. He could really run.

"He was a defensive end who ran track in high school in Texas. You don't see that much. I thought he may come free. And that's what he did.

"I called his agent and told him Bertrand was a guy we'd likely be interested in when he came available.

"I think the CFL was a lot more competitive than Bertrand could imagine. I think his brief time in Edmonton made him realize the work he'd have to do.

"He's a remarkable athlete and he certainly made some big plays in the playoffs."

You could hear the paper rustling on his desk.

"We signed him on Sept. 30. We released him Oct. 21 after two games."

Greg Williams is Berry's agent. He says Berry asked out of his contract in Edmonton after his second game.

"I think it was $28,000," said Williams on his cell phone.

"I remember it being a humbling experience.

"Following his third year with the Colts, the club decided not to issue him a qualifying offer and no one picked him up. He went to Canada and asked the Eskimos to allow him to be released from his contract and came home.

"He worked hard, decided his future was still in the NFL and that he wanted to come back and give it another shot.

"His experience in Edmonton made him really focus. It gave him an awful lot of extra motivation. He ended up getting a tryout with the Denver Broncos, had a great workout and signed on the spot."

And the rest is history.

"He signed the five-year, $25 million contract, the biggest in the history of the Cardinals, had 14 1/2 sacks, made the Pro Bowl and now he's in the Super Bowl."

Go Esk Go?


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