Brunswick High School lineman D’Antne Demery didn’t know he was a U.S. Army All American until he got a mysterious package in the mail.
Once he opened it, the mystery dissolved. A jacket bearing the U.S. Army logo and a letter congratulating him on his acceptance to the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl was inside.
Demery is the first player to represent Glynn County in the nationally-televised showcase game. When he heard his name mentioned in the same sentence as some of the game’s alums — Odell Beckham, Jr., Adrian Peterson, Andrew Luck — the accolade was put into perspective for the University of Georgia commit.
“It’s crazy, man, to be balled up in that circle with those guys,” Demery said. “I might be the next one up, and that’s very exciting. I feel very blessed about that. I’ll just keep working.”
The four-star offensive tackle with an 84-inch wingspan didn’t have the Army All-American game on his horizon until he tried on the jacket. The commendation came as a surprise to him. He never imagined himself making the trip to San Antonio to play on a televised stage as a high school player.
The two weeks between receiving his acceptance letter and the formal jersey presentation in the Brunswick High School auditorium, for Demery, have been a dream compared to the months leading up to the moment he accepted his jersey on Thursday.
In July, roughly a month after Demery made his commitment to Georgia, his mother, Rochelle Demery, passed away after battling lupus for several years. The high school senior was coping with the loss of his parent while raising his then-4-month-old daughter, Paislee, and still trying to keep his grades up and look forward to his senior football season.
But football is important to Demery, and his goals in the sport are an avenue to a future beyond his hometown of Brunswick.
“It’s been crazy, but I’ve still been fighting,” Demery said. “Haven’t let that stop me.”
His coach, Larry Harold, had the unique life experience to help him navigate the new rigors of his life. Harold said he’s been coping with the loss of his own mother, who passed about about a year and a half ago. Harold told Demery to spend a couple weeks at home to reconcile before deciding to return to the field.
His return to the team, Harold said, is when Demery’s character came out.
“Because I had gone through it, I could advise him,” Harold said. “Close to the start of the season, he came back and just fought his way through. … He’s going to be successful because of his resiliency. For a kid to go through that and still go to school on his own, still practice, still work hard, it says a lot about the integrity of that young man.”
Georgia was interested in Demery before his senior season, but Harold said Demery’s drive and commitment were traits Rob Sale — Georgia’s former offensive line coach under Mark Richt — and current offensive line coach Sam Pittman valued as a compliment to the athleticism.
While Demery defended stunts and pass rushes on the field, life blitzed him again when Harold resigned following the end of Brunswick’s season in November.
Harold is optimistic about finding his next opportunity shortly after the holiday season. He’s been exploring options at other schools, and hopes to find a job in South Georgia (he’d rather not tangle with the metro-Atlanta traffic).
Until then, Demery said it’s the Pirates’ turn to support their former coach, who’s supported them for the past three seasons.
“He’s a down-to-earth man,” Demery said. “He helps you when you need help, even when you don’t ask for it. He sees it.”
Demery’s story isn’t a sad one, just a story with sad parts. And the story’s not over.
With his college career just ahead of him, he said he is ready to make an immediate impact.
He doesn’t take much stock in Georgia’s 7-5 season under Richt’s successor Kirby Smart. Expectations start high, even for a first year head coach, and he is committed to Georgia to say the least. Through the ups and downs Demery’s experience of late, there’s been one constant.
“Go Dawgs,” Demery added at the end of his interview.