Zach Duncan, Times Record News
Pro football Hall of Famer Raymond Berry stressed the importance of hard work and dedication as he shared some of his fondest football memories Friday night at the Maskat Shrine Temple.
Berry was in town as the guest speaker for the Oil Bowl Hall of Fame Banquet, and the former Baltimore Colts receiver had many insightful words to tell the estimated crowd of 500.
“It takes more than talent to be a football player,” said Berry, who had 631 catches for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in a 13-year career. “You have to learn to play the game with your head.”
Speaking mainly to the Texas and Oklahoma players in town for the Oil Bowl, Berry discussed the significance of discipline, using a tale about ex-teammate Lenny Moore.
Moore was the Colts star running back in the late ‘50s, and he had to overcome a fumbling problem that Berry said cost Baltimore a shot at a championship.
“The only way to get disciplined is to work at it,” said Berry, who also coached the Patriots to a 48-39 record in six seasons, including a loss to Chicago in the 1986 Super Bowl. “It’s a mentality.”
Berry also told the young athletes, many of which will play football in college next year, to not give up, despite the obstacles that are ahead.
“You may have to weather some hard times, and it’s not any guarantee it’s going to be easy,” he said. “I lived my first two years in pro football with my dream that close to being gone.”
He also told how when he came into the league in 1955, he had a “God-given ability to catch a ball without an ounce of training.” When he added that training, he said it took his game to another level.
While Berry is most known for his 12-catch, 178-yard performance in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, he said the “Greatest Game Ever Played” wasn’t his only big thrill in a superb football career.
With a district championship on the line, Berry and his Paris squad defeated Gainesville 13-7 during his senior year of high school.
“Those two thrills were equal,” he said. “That says something about what high school football means.”
Berry also praised high school football coaches, noting the invaluable impact they have on young athletes’ lives.
“Coaches at the high school level are just as good or better than at the pro level,” Berry said. “The influences of high school football coaches is probably one of the biggest in America.”
Texas’ Billy Bookout and Oklahoma’s Jay Wilkerson were the 2004 inductees into the Oil Bowl Hall of Fame.
Staff sports writer Zach Duncan can be reached weekdays after 4 p.m. by calling 1-800-627-1646 or 720-3470. Or e-mail him at duncanz(at)timesrecordnews.com.