Former Buckeye Jaamal Berry Hangs On to NFL Dream

By Kyle Rowland on May 7, 2014 at 1:00p

Transfers often leave college football’s big stage, exiting the spotlight and never catching another glimpse. Jaamal Berry hopes to be an exception to that norm.

He left Ohio State prior to 2012 spring practice due to several run-ins with the law and found his footing in southwestern Kentucky at Murray State. Berry was the Racers’ leading rusher in 2012 (675 yards, seven touchdowns) and 2013 (668 yards, five touchdowns) and had a combined 434 yards receiving. The production garnered attention from afar in the NFL.

When the time came to work out for GMs, scouts and head coaches, Berry found refuge with the Buckeyes. He boarded a plane in South Florida and flew north to Columbus to display his skills at Ohio State’s Pro Day. The Woody Hayes Athletic Center offered familiar grounds and a sense of normalcy for Berry on a pressure packed day.

But as Berry was warming up, he received the unfortunate news that the trip was all for naught. Players can only work out at their own college or hometown, and Ohio State and Columbus represented neither for Berry. So the four-star prospect was left to ponder what if.

“I was warming up, getting ready to go. I felt good,” Berry said. “But unfortunately, those are the rules and I have to follow them.”

Berry would get his chance to impress scouts and front office types in Murray, Ky., and he took advantage of the opportunity. Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher believes Berry could be a late-round pick and several draft analysts have pegged him as a small-school steal. If Berry doesn’t hear his name among the draft’s 256 selections, his phone will be buzzing at its conclusion with teams coveting him as an undrafted free agent.

During Ohio State’s 12-1 season of 2010, which would be Jim Tressel’s last at the school, Berry gained 266 yards on 32 carries, an average of more than eight yard per touch. But he played sparingly the following year as the program transitioned and the offense became stagnant.

“Leaving here was a big wake up call for me, even going to a smaller school,” Berry said. “A lot of things that I got here weren’t going down at Murray State. It made me grow up real fast and appreciate the moment, live in the moment. So I’m definitely grateful for that.”

Berry averaged 7.1 yards per carry in 2012 and 5.3 in 2013. He doesn’t look at the past with regrets because of the good that’s come out of his situation, but Berry realizes if given a second chance, he would take a different route and mature before being dismissed from the team.

But he harbors no ill will toward Ohio State or Urban Meyer. As the Buckeyes went 24-2 the past two seasons, Berry’s Murray State teams were 11-13. It didn’t stop him from cheering on his friends and former teammates, though. Any time he could sneak a peek of the Buckeyes, he did so.

“They’re still some of my closest friends and that’s definitely one thing I miss about [Ohio State],” Berry said. “I root for them every Saturday and just like I’m a Buckeye fan.”

When you’re a highly touted high school player, you go to college to play football. There’s little secret to the method, even if the NCAA would like you to think differently. But Berry isn’t most proud of the yards or touchdowns, his shinning moment came in December when he graduated from Murray State.

There was one person that came to mind during that ceremony. And Berry had a strong urge to give him a call. So he dialed Tressel.

“I let him know I graduated and thanked him for the opportunity to experience some of the best years of my life [at Ohio State],” Berry said. “He’s one guy who gave me the opportunity to come here because he's the guy who recruited me.”

A second phone call could be on the way this weekend.


Comments Show All Comments

Horvath22's picture

Nice piece, Kyle. Appreciate it.

+4 HS
buckeyehub's picture

Berry would get his chance to impress scots and front office types 

Scouts* great article! 

“Anyone can run the option. I can run the option.” - Urban Meyer
Let's beat the snot out of *ichigan.

+2 HS
OSUpawn's picture

There was one person that came to mind during that ceremony. And Berry had a strong urge to give him a call. So he dialed Tressel.

“I let him know I graduated and thanked him for the opportunity to experience some of the best years of my life [at Ohio State],” Berry said. “He’s one guy who gave me the opportunity to come here because he's the guy who recruited me.”

Gave me chills.  I love hearing stories of people changing and making a better life for themselves.  Best of luck to you young man.

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+8 HS
swainpm's picture

Stories like this are why Tressel will forever be loved by those of us lucky enough to have witnessed his time at tOSU.

+2 HS
MacG91's picture

If he would of kept his nose clean, he would of been perfect for Urban's offense in 2012. 


+7 HS
Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

Berry and Hyde were the 1-2 thunder and lightining punch from Florida dreams were made of. You are correct he would have been devastating in Urb and Hermans spread. I hope nothing but the best for the kid he seems to have learned a valuable lesson.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

+2 HS
Codeezy's picture

Tressel could recruit that's for sure. 


Go Bucks! 

Squirrel Master's picture

Man I hope he kills it in the NFL and still stays apart of the Buckeye family!

he was the first recruit I actually read up on when he committed to the buckeyes. I thought he and Hyde was going to be a monster backfield, and they would have been too!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

+4 HS
SilverState's picture

Same here Squirrel. Him and Hyde's highlight videos were two of the first I ever watched, and got me interested in recruiting. Always been pulling for him - always will.

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

A lot of these young men experience tough times during the acclamation to college life, and some never recover. I always enjoy finding out about the ones who do land on their feet eventually. Best of luck to Jamaal on his NFL journey and totally awesome that he is still a Buckeye at heart.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

BroJim's picture

Nice work, thanks for the story!

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Great to hear Jaamal has used the experience to right the ship and is heading down the good side of the road!  Congrats and all the best of luck to him going forward.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

MAVBuck's picture

Amazing piece. Always good to see a buckeye succeed when they have to move on. For someone who had his issues in the past he became a class act. Hope he finds a home in the NFL.

Buckeyeneer's picture

Players can only work out at their own college or hometown

Wat? Someone bring some sanity to this situation. What reason is there for a rule like this?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Just add it to the 98,567,321 reasons to dislike the imperial NCAA overlords. 

+3 HS
Spider1944's picture


I hope you can make this topic a regular feature. All these young men were good enough to be recruited by Ohio State and it usually works out for about 1 out of 4 of them.

Also, how highly ex Buckeyes feel about Jim Tressel. 

Any word on Mike Mitchell's where abouts?



"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

H2opolo18's picture

Echo all the sentiments above.  Glad Jamaal got the message, unfortunately too many don't.  Does anyone know whether he got his degree?  I, too, hope he is the second back drafted after Carlos.  Go Bucks!


+1 HS
bukyze's picture

Just another example of how much Tressel meant to his players, and was a true mentor and father figure to them.  I'm sure there are hundreds of other things he's done that we'll never know about.

+1 HS
MauricXe's picture

Exactly. I love what Tressel did for the program and most of all, what he meant to for his players.

Dougger's picture

Kyle I logged in just to echo the sentiment of everyone else. Great piece. I'm glad Jaamal found his way and understands his past.

Speaks both to the power of the mind for him to turn it around and the power of mentors like Jim Tressel.

I like football

Shangheyed's picture

Great story hope it continues...

AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

Always was a fan of Berry's!


THEOSUfan's picture

I remember being really excited about Berry coming in.  Then you see the struggle for playing time, then some brushes with trouble, and poof he was gone.  It's a scenario that sometimes plays out with kids at Ohio State and every big football program.

There is something about being in the right place at the right time.  Right place in terms of a scheme that fits a player's strengths, and right time in terms of not having superior players stacked up in front of you at your position.  Sometimes you see a player that waits his turn and then explodes onto the scene, but if 2 years go by, and they aren't the man by then, I can see how they would think somewhere else is the right place for them.

BeijingBucks's picture

good kid, now he needs to take that degree, play some football for a coupla years then marry that hot cheerleader Jen and make bizarro ice cream flavors and tax write offs

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

osubuckeye4life's picture

Good job Jaamal! I love hearing a guy turn his life around!!