From scouting at the NFL Combine to managing the salary cap, the role of general manager is complex — managed by many only in video games. Yet for a select 32, the NFL Draft is more than clicking a button on a controller.
For Andrew Berry '09, the dream became reality when he was named general manager of the Cleveland Browns in 2020. But before there was Andrew Berry the football executive, there was Andrew Berry, a star Harvard defensive back. And before that, there was Andrew Berry the football fan.
"I grew up a huge Cowboys fan," he said. "The love for football came at an early age."
After first playing tackle football in middle school, Berry excelled alongside his twin brother, Adam, at Bel-Air High School in Maryland. Then a quarterback, Berry started gaining traction in the recruiting process during his junior year. But Harvard was never on the radar for the All-Metro team member.
"I kinda stumbled upon Harvard," Berry said. "To be honest, I had always had my heart set on playing Pac-10 football at Stanford".
Stanford's firing of Buddy Teevens, the current head coach at Dartmouth, derailed Berry's plans, as his official visit was canceled. Instead, he decided to take an official visit to Harvard. Despite not knowing much about the Ivy League, he was impressed with the players and coaches he met.
"It was the right program for me, on and off the field," Berry said.
Following his arrival on campus, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy asked Berry to switch from quarterback to cornerback, believing it was a more straightforward path for him to see the field. Berry took the request in stride and started all four years in the secondary.
"He was such a class kid, such a team guy that he made the change as what was best for the team," Murphy said.
Outside of the classroom, Berry kept himself busy, obtaining an undergraduate degree in economics and pursuing a concurrent Master's in computer science. According to Berry, his decision to pursue a Master's stemmed from taking one of Harvard's most famous courses.
"I had taken a computer science class in high school,” he said. “[CS50] rekindled my love for that."
"The kid didn't sleep," Murphy recalled of Berry's time at Harvard.
However, a career in the front office was not at the forefront of Berry's mind after his four years with the Harvard football team. The three-time All-Ivy corner had his eyes set on the NFL.
"I had aspirations to play," he said.
The Washington front office may not have seen an NFL future for Berry, as they cut him following rookie minicamp, but the Colts front office did. Tom Telesco — who is now the Chargers' GM but was the Colts' director of player personnel at the time — advised Berry to consider an entry-level position in Indianapolis' scouting department.
On Jan. 28, 2020, after stints in the front offices of the Colts, Browns, and Eagles, Berry was named executive vice president of football operations and General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. In doing so, he became the youngest general manager in NFL history at 35.
"I think the first time I heard it was the day before my press conference," Berry said of the achievement.
Berry's success in the front office and ascension to general manager came as no shock to those around him.
"Andrew quite simply is one of the most remarkable kids I have ever met, and I knew that whatever he chose for a career he would be successful," Murphy said.
It has also served as a point of inspiration for members of the Harvard football team. One such player, two-time All-Ivy first-teamer Jordan Hill '21, who now works with the Browns as a film analyst, credits Berry as a mentor and role model.
"It shows us that we can find a way to stay around this game that we love," Hill said. "I hope to be where he is someday."
Despite guiding the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002 in his first year at the helm, Berry has had to handle multiple challenges during his tenure, including Covid-19 and the sexual misconduct allegations against quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"I never thought that the primary problem I would be solving in 2020 was how to manage a roster in a global pandemic," Berry said. "That specific problem is not in your GM prep."
Ultimately, these challenges have shown Berry the side of being a GM that doesn't appear on the application.
"Oftentimes, people assume that being general manager is just about selecting players or working with the coaching staff," Berry said. "I think a lot of it is problem-solving and crisis management."
Berry's message to the team was simple ahead of the 138th rendition of the Harvard-Yale football game: "Play hard and beat Yale."
—Staff writer Christopher D. Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.