DeVane: A man with a plan
By Morris News Service
HARTWELL, Ga. -- Former Clemson coach Danny Ford always knew William DeVane would be a success in whichever career path he chose to follow. But a high school football coach? That one never really crossed his mind.
"I really had no idea that was what he wanted to do," Ford said this week from his home in Pendleton, S.C. "William DeVane has always been a very smart young man, very gifted. I always thought he would go into business or something like that."
DeVane, however, never had a doubt in his mind. Working with youngsters was a job the elementary education major always intended to pursue.
So after a pair of pro tryouts with the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills didn't pan out, the Hart County head football coach began concentrating solely on the career he has always loved.
"I've always wanted to do whatever I could in regards to the kids," DeVane said. "If I wasn't playing pro football, I always envisioned myself being involved with the game working with youngsters in some capacity. I couldn't imagine doing anything else."
Bulldog fans are certainly glad that he does.
IN JUST TWO YEARS, DeVane -- who played beside Aiken's William "The Refrigerator" Perry on the defensive line for Ford's Tigers during their 1981 national championship campaign -- has turned the Bulldogs into the cream of the Class AA crop.
Back-to-back Region 8-AA championships have been the result, and Saturday night Hart County (14-0) will play for its first state football championship when DeVane's Dogs travel to Cartersville to take on the undefeated Purple Hurricanes (14-0).
That kind of faith comes as no surprise to former Clemson All-American linebacker Jeff Davis, who started with DeVane on that 1981 championship squad.
"The thing I remember about William is he always had a great attitude and great work ethic," Davis said. "As a player, he didn't mind getting after you. He was mentally tough, just a great person to be around."
Unlike Ford, Davis isn't surprised DeVane chose the profession that he did.
"I could always picture Devo coaching football," said Davis, a Greenville S.C., resident who has come to watch Hart County play on several occasions. "He's always wanted to be involved in the lives of young people, just because of the type of person he is. He's not only a role model, but a father figure because he can impart so much to a young man. That's one of the best things he's able to do as a coach."
Devane was just a sophomore on Clemson's 1981 squad, which entered the national championship game in the Orange Bowl a decided underdog to the undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers.
As DeVane recalled, nobody gave Clemson much of a chance, but the Tigers were able to buck the odds and come away with a stunning 22-15 win. "I think back to the two weeks leading up to the Orange Bowl, and it was different."
"That first week was like spring practice, we all thought that coach Ford had gone crazy, but it was necessary because of the intensity level of the game. There's something different in the air when you're getting ready to play a game as big as this. The fans are all excited and every play is huge. One mistake can mean the difference in winning or losing the championship, and that's something I want to make sure these kids understand."
"The biggest thing he can do is instill upon his players is just to have faith in what they do," Davis said. "He can also teach them not to fear. That's what we did at Clemson. We loved one another, we had faith in the coaches, and they taught us not to fear any team."
"That's how we won the national championship, so once he puts that ring on, those kids will look at that and know that he's not just talking talk. He's speaking from experience. And knowing William, his team is going to be some kind of pumped up. Believe me, the guy knows how to coach."
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