“I’m not the greatest public speaker and I’m sure I’ll be nervous,” said the second-winningest coach in Griffin High history, who has never spoken at a public religious gathering indoors or outdoors before. “I’ll probably be more nervous because I know what I’m doing at a football game — at least I think I do.”
While DeVoursney has never spoken publicly before at such an event, many great head football coaches before have — including the late Nick Hyder of Valdosta High folklore in addition to current-day University of Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt as well as Bobby Bowden the all-time winningest coach in major college football.
For DeVoursney, it all comes back to serving.
“Any time the community wants me to do something, I’m there to volunteer especially since I ask so much of them… ,” he said. “And I do have a great faith and believe in Jesus Christ — I don’t have a problem with that.”
For First Baptist Church of Orchard Hill Pastor Nelson Grist, DeVoursney was the perfect fit for the message.
“Our theme for the year has been Rise up to the Challenge,” he said. “And really after seeing the job he did last year and how Griffin rose up to the challenges they had in front of them it really hit home with me: He’s someone who can relate to the theme and can really bring something to what the people need to hear.”
An underclassmen-laden Bears team, loaded with freshmen and sophomores, rebounded from a 3-2 start to win its next six games and make it to the second round of the state playoffs before eventually losing to eventual state champion Tucker.
The battle Grist — a former head coach who most recently led Faith Christian Academy to the ICSGA 8-man 2010 state title game — is talking about is much larger than the gridiron.
“Right now our communities and country are facing a lot of challenges — unemployment rate and whole standard of living — and we’re struggling,” said Grist. “We can either lie down or rise up to the challenge and succeed.”
Through the years, DeVoursney has never shied away from religion. The team not only has a chaplain who performs devotionals, but it also has a T-shirt or two each season with a scripture reference on it.
“Religion ties in so good to football to me — it’s the big picture thing,” said DeVoursney. “Hopefully, it helps kids grow up to be great young men, something that’s great for our communities and society.”
The two-day event includes free food, school supplies, health screenings, concert and door prizes (including a 42-inch plasma TV) as well as activities for children and adults alike. It begins at 2 p.m., and goes to 8 p.m. DeVoursney will speak at 5 p.m., while Grist will speak close to 7 p.m. The event will continue with an outdoor service and picnic on Sunday, beginning at 10 a.m.
“He (Grist) said, ‘Do you want to go 30 or 40 minutes,’” said DeVoursney. “I said, ‘No, no, no — 15 minutes.’”
Grist and DeVoursney first met when Grist was coaching the FCA Lions in 2010, during which time DeVoursney lent Grist a large helmet one day for one of his hard-to-fit players.
It left an impression on Grist.
“I found coach Devo very helpful, very available. He runs a big-time program but he’s there willing to help a small program, a coach who’s struggling,” said Grist. “That says a lot about his character and who he is. I believe that’s why he has been as successful as he has been because God has blessed who he is and the character he has.”