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Eric Berry is Chiefs’ nominee for NFL Man of the Year award

Chiefs safety Eric Berry (center) is the team’s nominee for the NFL Man of the Year award.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry (center) is the team’s nominee for the NFL Man of the Year award. deulitt@kcstar.com

It wasn’t a surprise to see Chiefs star safety Eric Berry among the 32 nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award announced Wednesday.

Berry, 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last December. He spent eight months in his hometown of Fairburn, Ga., fighting the illness, fast-tracking his chemotherapy so he could to return the Chiefs by the start of training camp.

Berry regained his starting role in the second game of the season and has made 46 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games. He missed practice on Wednesday to see a cancer specialist in Atlanta, but the visit was a routine checkup that had been planned for months.

“This was the day that he could see the physician, and it’s about a year out,” head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Wednesday. “So it’s nothing out of the ordinary — we’ve known (about) it, Coach (Andy Reid) has known it, (general manager) John (Dorsey) has known it, everybody’s known it.”

The Walter Payton award, which was established in 1970 and named after the Bears’ Hall of Fame running back in 1999, recognizes one NFL player annually for his excellence on and off the field, with each team nominating a player who has had a significant position impact on his community.

Berry’s comeback from cancer has inspired many people since training camp, and his mother, Carol, recently held an event to raise cancer awareness.

A panel of judges will determine the winner, which will be announced during the fifth annual NFL Honors awards show, which will air Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50.

Five Chiefs have won the award since its inception, which is tied with Chicago for the most of any team — Willie Lanier (1972), Len Dawson (1973), Derrick Thomas (1993), Will Shields (2003) and Brian Waters (2009).

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