If you took the time to get to really know D’Antne Demery, then Sunday was a rough day.
My reporting allowed me the chance to do that. To tell his stories. All of them. Not just opine on where he’s going to school.
The weight of those never left my mind on Sunday morning. My family was on our way to church and I just couldn’t shake his plight. Red lights meant my heart sank deeper.
It rained all day. Everyone who really knew Demery had to feel that way.
These allegations are damning. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound high school senior was charged with putting his hands on a woman that was also the mother of his child.
It didn’t stop there. Those threats. These charges. Awful. In every sense of the term.
But I still can’t help but feel for him. That wasn’t the D’Antne Demery I knew. And that’s why I prayed for him.
Those headlines crammed all the important stuff in there: UGA signee. U.S. Army All-American. Brunswick High School. 4-star prospect.
Those things are supposed to make you click. They were not what should make you care.
It certainly wasn’t enough information to start judging a young man who now carries far more burdens than pounds. If you did, please allow me the chance to tell you why.
This was far more than Georgia losing an earth mover for an underperforming line.
When Demery chose Georgia last June, my colleague Chris Kirschner and I road tripped to Brunswick to film his commitment video. It was my fourth trip to see him in 2 years.
We shadowed him. Spent time in his home. The tiny dwelling he would be leaving behind was what a future film crew would shoot to show fans exactly where a 2025 NFL All-Pro came from.
None of those rooms fit Demery. It was like stuffing a Big-and-Tall man into a small polo shirt.
Demery’s father is not a part of his life. He gave birth to a beautiful daughter last year. But he also saw his mother Rochelle buried just before the start of his senior season.
Brunswick High went in another direction with its football program after that season.
That took Larry Harold Jr. out of his daily life at the school. Harold, like so many coaches everywhere across America, served willfully and honorably as a surrogate father and role model in Demery’s life. All the coaches at Brunswick did.
The young man also recently became a father for the second time earlier this year. This time it was a baby boy.
If that’s not enough pressure to succeed, he also had some work to do in the classroom during his senior year to ensure he qualified to play at Georgia.
I checked on that just last week. He needed to buckle down but with a lot of hard work, he was probably going to get there.
But then he went to G-Day last weekend. He was set to enroll and join the team during the first week of June. That meant he was about 40 days away from good coaches, better men, 125 brothers and at least 40 more father figures to prop him up.
He walked onto the field at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Demery was honored with the nation’s third-best recruiting class at halftime of G-Day.
Demery may never step on that field again. That future is gone. Just like that.
That ran through my mind sitting in the pew on Sunday morning. When the service was over, my kids were not sharing their mother’s cell phone in equal increments on the ride home.
But I could not muster up that intervening voice. Demery was still sitting in a jail cell in Clarke County. Still staring at his massive hands. Looking at the walls. Wishing he didn’t go up to G-Day.
I can imagine a lot of fans saw those headlines and just shook their head. They summed it up with thoughts of youth and wasted opportunity and went on to the latest about Donald Trump, Georgia politics or a rainy Sunday from the Weather Channel.
I met his mother last June right before he committed. She was in his commitment video. Rochelle Demery was already in declining health. Her kidneys were shot. She already had been a frequent visitor to the dialysis clinic. If his mother sat down for too long, she’d need help getting up.
Demery was always there. He’d glide over to steady her so she would not fall. No one needed to call him over. It was as natural to him as going back to the huddle.
The big tackle held his mother in his arms the same way he did his little girl. He did so with a care that said it was the more important weight he could ever lift.
I’ve seen young athletes having children far too soon. Written that story at least 10 times. This was different.
When his baby girl cried, he was the only one that could soothe her. He did so instantly.
It doesn’t seem possible he could wrap his hands around the neck of another woman he knew like that. No matter the reason.
Truth be told, he needs somebody to brace him after this fall. To steady him so he will not fail. No teenager can carry this much weight.
This is not just about his life, but the lives of those 2 toddlers that need him. He must be the father he never knew. Football isn’t the most important piece there.
He told me once he knew his football life wasn’t about him. It was about being the best father now.
Life couldn’t have handed Demery a worse set of cards. The reports from a Clarke-County spokesperson said the woman who made that call to 911 wound up with a smashed cell phone screen.
I wasn’t there. I don’t know all the details. But I wonder if it was Demery who cracked first. He probably had enough reasons to.
“He’s getting dragged through the mud after one mistake,” Harold said. “The kid has never been in trouble before but the pressures he’s facing alone in life are building and causing him to make horrible decisions in the heat of passion.”
Is this an attempt at justification?
No. There is no excuse for any man anywhere at any time abusing a woman. There have still been enough good people in life to show him right from wrong.
Does he deserve a second chance? Yes. Somewhere.
Did Georgia do something wrong? Is this a bad look about how the Bulldogs dropped him?
It is just a heart-wrenching situation. And I wanted you to know the D’Antne Demery I thought I knew, too.