Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Raymond Berry, uncommon Christian Pro Football Hall of Famer . . . "Receiving Fundamentals" DVD . . . childhood memories, mid-1980's New England Patriots

With the 2011 NFL playoffs upon us and Super Bowl XLV (45) next month (February 6), this is a good time to announce the recent DVD release of "Raymond Berry: Receiving Fundamentals."

An Uncommon Christian

The man featured in the 2-DVD set, Raymond Berry (born 1933, Corpus Christi, Texas), is not only one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the National Football League, a former NFL head coach and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he also has been a committed "uncommon" Christian since 1960. In the online article "More to Life than Football" (January 27, 2002), Berry stated,

I stand on Jeremiah 9:23-24:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord" (NKJV).
In this passage God tells us where life is and where it is not. God’s priority is that we have a relationship with Him. I found a relationship with God more than 40 years ago and it is still going on.
Another online article, "Raymond Berry: Hands of Glue, Transformed Heart," is equally edifying in that it points the reader to Berry's and our only hope in this life and in the life to come, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. Click here to read the article from the September 2009 newsletter of Spirit of Grace Ministries (McKinney, Texas).

Long retired and with 9 grandchildren, Berry now lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn. His son Mark is a Presbyterian (PCA) missionary in Lima, Peru--click here to watch a video of Mark's church-planting ministry.

"Raymond Berry: Receiving Fundamentals" DVD

Concerning the instructional DVDs for the football player or coach or Berry fan, current Indianapolis Colts All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning stated, "Every receiver will benefit from Raymond Berry's route and receiving techniques."

According to the producers, the DVDs are "an educational, entertaining and inspirational way to learn the essence of the wide receiver position." Here is an excerpt from the DVDs:

Click here for the December 10, 2010, news release of the DVD set. Also, visit RaymondBerry.com to purchase the $29.95 set.

Pro Football Hall of Famer (Class of 1973)

As the main wide receiver (1955-67) for the famed Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, Berry caught a then-record 631 passes for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in his 13-year career.

A perfectionist, Berry fumbled the football only once during his entire playing career.

Both Berry and Unitas played in the NFL's "Greatest Game Ever Played," the 1958 NFL championship game versus the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium (December 28, 1958). A good read is Mark Bowden's book The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008).

Click here for a full biography on Berry via Wikipedia.org, here for a tribute to him from his alma mater of Southern Methodist University (SMU), here for his page on the Texas Sports Hall of Fame website (Class of 1974), and here for his Pro Football Hall of Fame page.

Among the many YouTube videos on the football legend, a unique and funny one is his November 9, 1958, appearance on the popular TV show (1950-67) "What's My Line":

Childhood Memories, New England Patriots . . . mid-1980s, Connecticut

When Berry was the head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots (1984-89), I used to correspond with him through letters/fan mail. 

When the letter writing began just prior to the 1985-86 season--the season the Patriots appeared in Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears (of which January 26, 2011, is the 25th anniversary)--I was a spiritually lost 14-year-old living in West Hartford, Connecticut.

The letter writing hobby was followed-up by periodic in-person visits to the Patriots training camp in Smithfield, R.I., and to some Patriots games in Foxborough, Mass.

In 2001, I donated to Canton, Ohio's Pro Football Hall of Fame archives the many letters and autographs I received from Berry, as well as his signed football cards and signed book he sent me, Raymond Berry's Complete Guide to Coaching Pass Receivers (Parker Pub. Co., 1982).

I also donated the letters and autographs I received from some of the 1950's and '60's Colts players and head coach who knew Berry and who were fellow members of the of Hall of Fame, namely, head coach Weeb Ewbank (Class of 1978), quarterback Johnny Unitas (Class of 1979), and running back Lenny Moore (Class of 1975). In his hand-written letter, Moore shared about his and Berry's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though not a member of the Hall of Fame, also donated was a 1986 letter from Don Shinnick, a former Colts teammate of Berry's and fellow Christian. Shinnick served as a Patriots assistant coach (linebackers) under Berry.

Additionally, the dozen or so letters I received from Berry's boss at the time, Patriots founder and then-owner (1959-88) William "Billy" H. Sullivan, Jr., were gratefully received by the Hall of Fame archives department. 

To my teenage delight, Mr. Sullivan at one point gave me his home phone number in order for me to call him and set up an appointment to meet him in his Sullivan Stadium office prior to a Patriots game. With my parents, I took him up on the offer during the 1986-87 season.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Berry.

With you, and by His sovereign grace,
I glory in the fact that the one and only
true God "understands and knows me."

Jeremiah 9:23-24


After sending the now 78-year-old Raymond Berry a printed copy of this blog post, I received a letter in response.

With the letter, Berry also enclosed an autographed football card of his that has on it, "Raymond Berry, Baltimore Colts 1955-1967, Hall of Fame 1973." 

On the back of the card, Berry explains how his Baltimore Colts teammate Don Shinnick (1935-2004) led Berry to placing his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. After their playing days were over in the 1960's, Berry hired Shinnick as his linebackers coach when Berry was head coach of the New England Patriots (1984-89).

In the November 9, 2011, letter, Berry wrote of the success he hopes the new DVD will have and how the DVD came about. The Hall of Famer wrote,
As a brother in Christ, you may be interested to know how this DVD ever came to be. I was coaching with the Cowboys (Tom Landry) in 1968 and 1969. In January 1970, the Lord spoke clearly to me one Saturday afternoon: 'Quit your job--finish that film.'
Well, it took another 30 years but Berry finally made the film. Better late than never. I am so glad he made the DVD for the sake of the future generations of football wide receivers who can learn from his knowledge and experience of the position.

Berry also wrote in his closing remarks,
By the way, the Lord turned my attention to the Jews and Israel when I was a Babe in Christ [New Testament, 1 Peter 2:2]. He put a love for them in my heart.
Berry writes this as I had just spent 26 months of sabbatical/pilgrimage/ministry in Israel, May 2009 to June 2011.

On December 29, 2011, the NFL announced that Berry will participate in the Vince Lombardi Trophy ceremony at the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVI. Berry will carry the trophy to the stage and deliver it to Commissioner Roger Goodell who will present it to the Super Bowl champion. The ceremony will be televised live by NBC at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, February 5, 2012. 

As an aside, Robert Kraft, the Jewish philanthropist and owner (1994- ) of the NFL's New England Patriots, began the Israel Football League (Kraft Family IFL) in 2005. The Jerusalem-area teams play at Kraft Family Stadium, the same stadium that hosts the annual Israel Bowl (2008- ).

IFL games can be heard in English and online for free on Israel Sports Radio. The season runs November to March.

After the NFL season is over, Kraft normally visits Israel where he has a business. Some past and present Patriots players often accompany him on the trip, including Pro Football Hall of Famer (Class of 2008) Andre Tippett who converted to Judaism during his playing days (1982-93).

When living in Jerusalem, I saw Kraft, Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick and others during the Kraft delegation's visit to Kraft Family Stadium in March 2011.

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