South Carolina landed one of its best recruiting classes ever in 2009 and South Pointe’s DeVonte Holloman was a key piece. Holloman has been a starter for the better part of his three-year career but in 2012, he will play a new position. Devonte’s parents, Teresa and Chris give a behind the scenes look at the Gamecock star’s life growing up.
Talk to me about DeVonte’s life as a child growing up in. What did he enjoy?
Mom: “DeVonte was always one of the bigger kids. At birth he weighted over 9 pounds! His grandfather is 6-foot-6 so he comes from a family of large people and it has always caused him to look older than he is. Growing up he was always a very good kid…very creative, always active. He always wanted to do something…you could never get him to sit still but he rarely got into trouble.”
“Growing up DeVonte loved ninjas and the Power Rangers. He was one of those kids that would get a ninja costume for Halloween and wear it around the house year round. He would be running around the house with plastic swords strapped to his back and nun chucks. He would even go to sleep in that costume! His dad tried to get him interested in remote controlled cars but he just wanted to be a ninja.”
“His favorite movie was the Lion King…boy did he love that movie! I think we bought him three different copies of it…he had one at our house, one at my mom’s house, and an extra tape just in case. I think he was about 7 before he finally stopped wanting to watch it everyday. He always liked the movies and stories with the happy endings or where the good guys would win. ”
“When DeVonte was little he had a really strong interest in playing the drums. We went out and bought him a full drum set when he was only 4 and he would bang on it all the time! For a four year old he was pretty good!”
“Also…DeVonte is a really good dancer. We used to call him Dusher after Usher because he used to have the whole “You Make Me Wanna” dance memorized. He was smooth!”
Dad: “He was just such a busy kid growing up; he could never sit still. He always loved sports and loved video games…still does love video games actually. He was the type of child that could easily get on your nerves because he always wanted to know what you were up to so he could join…he was a great kid though.”
What were some of the values you most wanted to instill in him?
Mom: “When DeVonte was growing up I made a point to instill the characteristics of a leader in him. In the mornings before he went to school I would say to him “DeVonte…be a leader and not a follower today. Set yourself apart.” I told him that sometimes it’s ok to use a path that others have made, but you at least have to make it better. I still remind him today to be a leader; never follow.
“When he was a child we didn’t live in the nicest neighborhood and I didn’t want him to be satisfied with that because I wasn’t. He was taught early in his life that you don’t have to be a product of your environment; you can be a product of the lessons you are taught.”
Dad: “His mother and I wanted him to understand from a young age the importance of perseverance and commitment; starting something and finishing it. We stressed always putting your best foot forward no matter what you were doing.”
How did DeVonte start playing football? When did you know he had a future in the sport?
Mom: “DeVonte was 5 and his dad was away at college so it was just he and I. He always had so much energy that when I noticed the park across the street had football tryouts I thought it was a perfect opportunity to help him let loose and get rid of some energy! I figured he couldn’t be a ninja all his life so I took him over to see what he could do. It turns out this league – It was the “police academy league” grouped them together by size instead of by age. They wanted to put DeVonte in the group with all of the 9 year old boys! I said “ya’ll are going to kill my baby!” so I took him home and he didn’t actually start playing at that point.”
“Years went by and he actually starting playing basketball first, then baseball. He was very, very good at both of those sports…I actually thought he was going to be a basketball player.”
“When DeVonte was 10 his AAU basketball team went to nationals and they placed 8th in the nation. At that point DeVonte was riding high on basketball and loved it…but the next season some things changed. DeVonte’s coach didn’t really believe in him like we thought he should have so he spent a lot of his time on the bench. He started to get really frustrated and one day we were driving home and passed a church where a group of kids were playing football. I remember DeVonte saying, “I think I want to play football” and his dad turned around and asked “like…now?” DeVonte said yes so we literally pulled the car over and went to join the team. The rest is really history because once they accepted DeVonte he really excelled.”
“His first year playing football, they had him as a lineman because he was so big for his age. He told his coach the next year he wanted to play quarterback and the coach let him try thinking he couldn’t just step in and do that…but he could and he did! He was a really good quarterback!”
“DeVonte played a lot of sports when he was growing up and he was so good at all of them. Baseball is probably the sport that came most natural to him though…he didn’t really ever have to practice…he was just that good. He never spent hours in a batting cage or pitching…he could just pick it up at the beginning of the season and do it.”
“I think it was sometime in middle school when he got tired of baseball. It broke his dad’s heart to know he didn’t want to play anymore. From that point on he focused on football and basketball until about 11th grade when football really took center stage. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I think basketball is a recreational love for him where football is something he is truly talented at. He was a quarterback for a lot of his early school career and with that came a lot of attention. Once he started to play on the defensive side of the ball was when he truly fell in love with football.”
“He thinks he can still play basketball…but he can’t. I went back the other day and watch some of his highlight tapes…I remember we used to think he was a baller, but I’m not so sure anymore (laughs)…”
“From when he was a freshman playing JV to when he was a junior DeVonte played at Independence High School. I remember he was the quarterback for his entire freshman year at Independence and they went undefeated. When it came time for the varsity team to go to state – the varsity team was also undefeated – they wanted to take DeVonte with them. Their offense at the time was amazing though…D.J. McFadden (East Carolina) and Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina and now the New York Giants - were both on that team….that offense was just in a rhythm and they didn’t want to disrupt the flow. The coaches asked DeVonte if he could play safety so they could have all of their best athletes on the field. That is actually how he got introduced to defense and how he got his first ring (Independence High won state that year).”
“His sophomore year DeVonte played backup quarterback for the varsity team but was the full time safety. He had one game where he played quarterback because McFadden was injured and he ended up winning player of the week! The first varsity game he ever quarterbacked and he was player of the week.”
“The thing about DeVonte was that he didn’t ever really lose in football. I think his first actual loss didn’t come until he was a junior in high school and it hit him hard. From that point on he has just had a fire in him to win. He absolutely hates losing.”
Dad: “Football was the last sport he played. I was a football player myself – it was my love – but I never wanted to press it on DeVonte. I wanted it to be his decision.”
“I remember watching him playing and thinking he was very good…then his third year playing the lights came on and from that point he was a man amongst boys at his age. His coach at the time let him play a lot of positions and the thing about DeVonte was that he would go anywhere you needed him to. He was that unselfish player who would do whatever it took to help the team win. That was the point when I started to realize he had something special going on with football.”
Let’s talk about the recruiting process. What was that like? DeVonte was originally committed to Clemson but switched his commitment to South Carolina…what made that happen?
Mom: “DeVonte had letters from everywhere. I mean everywhere. We still have one of those big plastic bins full of recruiting letters from schools all over the country. He had over twelve full scholarship offers from schools all over the country. His dad and coaches took him all over the country on both official and unofficial visits. He went to places like Michigan and Notre Dame…really famous campuses and stadiums. It was a very long process but his father and I wanted him to get the most out of it that he could.”
“When it came to where he was actually going to commit I knew he was going to be somewhere close to home. When he went to Michigan and all those other schools to visit I know he enjoyed it a lot, but he got homesick when he visited LSU. On his official visit there he called me in the middle of the night and told me he wasn’t really feeling great…he said, “I just don’t know if this is the place.” I explained to him that he could choose to go wherever he wanted to, but if he went too far we wouldn’t always be able to be there every game. We would come as much as we could, but we couldn’t guarantee it would actually be very often.”
“At the time North Carolina was recruiting him hard but they just had a coaching change and that program wasn’t very good at the time. He actually grew up a Tarheel fan, but it was more because of the basketball program. South Carolina hadn’t really recruited him much at that time but when Clemson came after him, they came after him hard. DeVonte really liked Coach Tommy Bowden. Even to this day I think he is a very respectable man… I really enjoyed meeting him. Honestly…he probably could have sold me a car with three tires he was such a good salesman. He knew exactly what to say to myself and DeVonte’s father Chris, but we wanted it to be DeVonte’s decision.”
“When Bowden resigned DeVonte tried to contact his recruiter at Clemson and couldn’t get a response. After waiting a while to see what was going to happen he decided that it was time to withdrawal his commitment and open it back up to see what else is out there.”
“DeVonte always said he wanted to play defense in the SEC so when Coach Ellis Johnson started calling him and letting him know South Carolina was really interested he got excited. Coach Johnson started calling DeVonte a lot after he de-committed from Clemson. DeVonte is such a family oriented person that he needs that “connection” in order to be happy and that was something he really developed with Coach Johnson and Coach Shane Beamer during the recruitment process.”
“Once he committed to South Carolina he had a friend at Clemson who would tell him things like “Clemson is going to boo you when you go there to play”, “they don’t like you at Clemson” and other things like that. I think that is where DeVonte’s animosity towards Clemson comes from, but I don’t think it is really anything too serious. DeVonte just thinks; “Sorry you didn’t do what you needed to do Clemson, but SEC football is the best and I made my decision.”
**On Coach Johnson and Coach Beamer leaving for other schools**
Mom: “DeVonte has handled things pretty well since both of those coaches have moved on to other things. I think the fact that he is a part of a family oriented team has helped. He has his teammates now…he has built some great relationships over the years with other players. The whole team is very family-oriented now; they consider themselves a legitimate family. They keep each other grounded and focused.”
Dad: “The entire process was crazy for him. We had to set up a very strategic way of organizing all of the schools because so many were contacting him. By the beginning of his junior year he was really tired of it all…he decide he was going to go to Clemson and my heart dropped being both a Tarheel and an SEC fan…but I am a parent first and foremost so I supported his choice.”
“Once they let Bowden go, however, it was open again. Fortunately, DeVonte landed in the right place. It worked out exactly the way it was supposed to…he was supposed to be at USC.”
DeVonte skipped the last semester of his senior year of High School and enrolled early. How was he able to put himself in a position to do that and how do you think that helped him in his career at South Carolina?
Mom: “DeVonte moved from North Carolina to South Carolina for his senior year of high school and South Carolina’s graduation credit requirements weren’t as high as North Carolina’s. When he switched he had some extra credits and it allowed him to graduate earlier. I am so glad Coach Johnson decided to recruit DeVonte the way that he did, and I also believe Stephon Gilmore did some little things to push DeVonte towards South Carolina. Stephon would just give me that little nudge and say, “come on now…you know you want to be a Gamecock…”
“DeVonte is a smart kid and picks things up very quickly. Those extra few months made a world of difference. He actually has the capability to be quite a bookworm when he wants to be; he sees things once and remembers them easily. He is a nerd…but a cool nerd!”
Dad: “Getting on the field early was a major advantage. DeVonte is just so…football savvy. The kids who start in July miss out on a lot…especially the young ones who don’t get that extra spring practice. Those extra months made it so DeVonte could contribute as a freshman.”
You can make a strong argument that he and Stephon Gilmore really got the ball rolling for South Carolina in terms of keeping the best talent at home. Is that something they take pride in? What is their relationship like?
Mom: “South Carolina as a state loves their football. They love their football and they love their players. I think that we – as a family – are very appreciative of the way the state embraced DeVonte. You would think he grew up in South Carolina even though he was only there for a few months! I think the fans probably persuaded him to come to South Carolina as much as anybody.”
“As far as him and Stephon Gilmore, getting the ball rolling…I think that whole class…Alshon, DJ Swearinger, Devin Taylor…when I look at them and the players that are now seniors I have to give kudos to the Carolina coaching staff for getting it done. They shut down the border and kept those kids at home. It wasn’t necessarily DeVonte or Stephon, it was the coaching staff that did a great job recruiting and finding kids who were hungry to win and who wanted it. Once you get a taste of winning, you don’t want to lose.”
Dad: “I talked to DeVonte about this question. He really doesn’t take any credit for beginning the trend of quality players…local talent…that have been head to South Carolina. He says that there were great players there when he got there and there are great players that will come after he leaves. USC has a great history with the NFL and a proud lineage and DeVonte feels he is simply doing his best to carry on an impressive legacy.”
DeVonte has been one of the more vocal leaders (both to the team and in public) about wanting to beat Clemson. Where did that come from?
Mom: “He isn’t really as vocal of a person as you might think. DeVonte isn’t that person that will get the crowd or the team hyped. But, because he isn’t that person, when he does say something it makes you want to listen. I don’t think he is anywhere near as vocal as I am honestly…I told him I was going to get t-shirts that said “every player needs a cheerleader or a mom with a big mouth.”
“DeVonte just isn’t the type of person that needs to be in the limelight…he just likes to lead by example. He can show you better than he can tell you.”
Dad: “This is another question that I asked DeVonte about…his response was simple; Beating Clemson is now expected…it is SEC wins that matter.”
What led to DeVonte’s decision to return for his senior year instead of entering the NFL Draft? What are his expectations for the 2012 defense?
Mom: “I like to think it was because of me and my advice, but I am sure it is because he can increase his draft status. I don’t think he was really ready to leave college either. When DeVonte was graduating high school I didn’t get to actually see him walk across the stage because I was at home setting up for his graduation party. Because of that I told him he owes me a diploma…“I expect you to get your degree, so I can see you walk across that stage. I know he wants to increase his draft status but I know an education is also very important.”
“This might sound harsh but I have always told him he is not as skilled of a player as he thinks he is…he is good because he is so competitive. The fact that he hates to lose so much makes him a better player. It is to the point that he can’t even tolerate the thought of losing…he just wants to win. Frankly he is a sore loser…he can even be a sore winner sometimes. He and his sister compete at everything and he won’t ever let her win at anything. He is always giving her a hard time and saying things like “You lost! You lost!”
“Oh, and his sister is 8 years younger than him. He is THAT competitive.”
Dad: “DeVonte wants to get his degree and he felt he could better his position in the draft by coming back for his senior year. One thing about DeVonte is that he is extremely consistent. The powers that be for high school recruiting named him the 2nd ranked safety in the country and he has played consistently throughout his college career since that point. Other players get a lot of the glory and fame – and they all deserve it – but DeVonte has played just as well. He doesn’t want the attention, he just wants to be a consistently good player for a consistently good team and he has been able to do that in relative anonymity outside of Gamecock fans.”
DeVonte attempted to move to the Spur position in the beginning of last year but switched back to safety after only a few games, this year he is slated to start at Spur again. Do you believe this will be a more permanent move this year? Also, why does DeVonte want to play at the Spur position?
Mom: “I try not to be all into the football business…I just let him talk about it whenever he wants to. Honestly…he is competitive; he just wants to win. Wherever he can be on the field and make a difference, that’s where he wants to be. If you told him he needed to play offense or be a lineman he would do it. If he knew it would help the team, he would do it and do it to the best of his ability. There is no right or wrong position for DeVonte Holloman.”
Dad: “I do believe it will be a permanent move this year. Maybe it is selfish on my part but I am hoping and believing that Brison Williams will be a quality player so that DeVonte can stick at Spur. DeVonte himself doesn’t care where he plays though; he is just happy to be there and happy to help the team. He just loves to play football.”
How is DeVonte adjusting to all of the new coaches that joined the staff this year? What have been his impressions of them so far?
Mom: “As far as he has told me he is enjoying it! His relationship with the current players has made the adjustment a lot easier than you would think. It is been a very smooth transition for the defense, especially with Ward having been there before. He is still getting used to the new guys’ coaching styles a little but the entire team is doing it together so that makes it a much easier process.”
Dad: “DeVonte feels like every coach has a message. Coach Ellis Johnson had a message and now Coach Botkin is bringing a different message; both messages make DeVonte play better though and he knows that. Even though it is the same game and the same terminology it is a different perspective. DeVonte liked Coach Johnson and he loves Coach Botkin and Coach Ward’s perspective. Now that Coach Ward is in control he is going to be more aggressive with DeVonte.”
What are his expectations now that Lorenzo Ward has been named full-time defensive coordinator?
Mom: “His expectations for the defense next year are whatever Coach Ward’s expectations are; they want to make sure that whatever they do, they do it well. He knows that - as a senior - he is not only responsible for himself, but he is responsible for the younger guys too. I think DeVonte recognizes that he is expected to be a leader and help the younger guys when they don’t do something right.”
Dad: “So far DeVonte has been thrilled with Coach Ward’s approach to the game. It is so much more…aggressive. There were times last year when DeVonte wanted to be more aggressive…he has wanted that since he has been at South Carolina. For his senior year he now gets his desire; a defense that promises to attack.”
What do you do as a parent to help DeVonte succeed? Do you have anything you like to do pre or post-game to help him get ready?
Mom: “I pray a lot…I pray that he is going to be safe…I pray that he is in the right place. I just pray. His father used to have a ritual on game day where he would yell out “game today!” and DeVonte would say “baaabbbeee!” They would do it over and over.”
“Post game we always wait outside the locker room. I still text him the same thing before a game, ‘be a leader today…be great.’ We celebrate after a win and give him space after a loss.”
Dad: “I am a Monday morning quarterback. I second-guess with the best of them. I played the game and I call myself a fanatic. I’ll talk to him and try to help him prepare for the game just like I am a coach. If I know he is playing Alabama…I am going to spend time watching Alabama to gain perspective and try and help him. I have coached him from the age of 8 and even though I am not his “official” coach…I still like to give him advice.”
Who is DeVonte Holloman outside of the football player? What would he do outside of a career in football?
Mom: “For a long time he wanted to be an engineer, but when he got to college he changed his career choice. He made some great grades his freshman year. I always envision DeVonte doing something competitive. I could easily see him be a coach…he always wants the best for everyone round him so it would just make sense.”
What is something DeVonte has taught you?
Mom: “DeVonte has taught me how to be proud as a parent; to know that I did a good job raising my son. He showed me that he was listening to all the lessons his father and I tried to teach him. He also taught me how to try your best. DeVonte might not always make all the right decisions, but he will always try his best. He taught me compassion and kindness for others.”
Dad: “DeVonte taught me how to really be open. Sometimes you feel like you want things to work a certain way and when they don’t, it is easy to get disappointed. DeVonte takes everything in stride and makes the best out of whatever situation he is in.”
What is it like in the Holloman household when everyone is home?
Mom: “DeVonte will tell you that we are a fun family. We like to laugh and joke; to dance and play games. We love family time. My side of the family is more female and his dad’s side is more male…when we all get together it is just one big party. He and his sister also have a very special bond…even though he never lets her win at anything. DeVonte loves his sister to death.”
“One thing though…I really would like for him to do is cut the grass anytime he comes home. He doesn’t want to, but I want him to do it. He is very useful because he is so tall…very good at changing light bulbs and the air filters. If you asked him he would probably say I work him to death…and I do.”
“Just make sure you mention that I want him to cut the grass when he gets home.”
Dad: “It is a fun time. With DeVonte being gone for three or four years now you just relish any time you get to have him back home. I love to just sit around with him and talk about all the good times we have had.”
Tell me one story that “defines” who DeVonte Holloman is.
Mom: “I keep talking about how competitive he is…but I can’t stress it enough. One thing I always think about is the day that he and his dad were racing to do everything. From the moment he woke up that morning DeVonte was just in a particularly competitive mood. All day it was “Dad I can beat you eating…I can beat you out the door…I can beat you to the car…” He was relentless. We went out that day as a family just running errands and DeVonte didn’t stop. “I’ll beat you in the store…I’ll beat you out the door…I’ll beat you to the car again…”
“When we finally got home that evening, DeVonte and his dad went into the house and his dad went to go use the restroom…DeVonte hops up and runs in there screaming “I’ll beat you peeing!”
“My jaw dropped! I couldn’t believe that he said that and that he was serious!” That story really says it all.
“I also remember the time DeVonte and his sister were playing a game and he wouldn’t let her win…next thing I knew he was screaming at the top of his lungs “She hit me in the eye with a pack of batteries!” I asked Breelyn (his sister) why she did that and she told me DeVonte had dared her. I said “DeVonte why would you dare her?” and he said, “Because I didn’t think her aim was that good!”
Dad: “Yeah that racing story really tells it all. His competitiveness was just extremely high that day. That is one of my fondest memories and it just goes to show how competitive he is all the time.”
Mom: “I also remember the day he learned how to use a telephone book. He was at his grandmother’s house and wanted to sign up for karate. He was 5 or 6 at the time, but he got his hands on the phone book, looked up a karate company and called them to say his grandma wanted to sign him up! If DeVonte wants to do something, he will find a way to do it.”
Questions from TheBigSpur.com members
JamRockCock: What would DeVonte say to another highly recruited kid who grew up in Charlotte/Rock Hill about playing for USC?
Mom: “He would tell them ‘If you want real, strong fan support go to USC. Those are the best fans and they embrace their players like nowhere else.’”
Dad: “I asked him this question and his response was “Going to South Carolina gives you the greatest opportunity to play the best college football close to home.” I am so glad he decided to attend South Carolina…we are all very thankful.”
SteveMiller: With all the guys from South Pointe playing for USC, is there a lot of fans in garnet and black around there on Saturdays in the fall?
Mom: “I live in Charlotte, but I can tell you that once he committed to South Carolina I started noticing bumper stickers and stuff from a mile away. There is plenty of fan support for South Carolina in Charlotte. When I am driving through Rock Hill to get to Columbia there is a lot of support. His sister goes to school in South Carolina too and she will hear it all the time and get Facebook comments “Congrats, he did great!” and things like that. Fan support is very strong in Charlotte and everywhere.”
Dad: “I didn’t recognize how many fans there were until DeVonte Committed to the Gamecocks; there is a huge fan base here in Rock Hill. I like to try and remain anonymous…I don’t like to go around bragging about being DeVonte’s father.”
“It really is a great time to be a Gamecock. These are some of the best times in school history…lots of Gamecocks are going to get drafted this year and next year there could be even more! Just an incredible time to be a Gamecock and I am glad DeVonte is a part of that.”
CrobertsUSCfan: What are you most proud of when it comes to your son?
Mom: “I am most proud of the man he is becoming. I am most proud of his desire to do the right thing constantly; even if things don’t always work out he is always trying to do the right thing. It has nothing to do with football, I am proud of the person he is.”
Dad: “I am most proud of him being a young man who is now going to be a father. I am proud of how - no matter what - he gives his best to everything. He is a student, an athlete, a brother, and now a father. He is committing to the right things in life.”
Cali*Gamecock: What is your favorite play by your son as a Gamecock?
Mom: “I honestly have two favorites. The first is his freshman year interception against Clemson. I wasn’t able to be at the game, but I was watching on TV and I just remember screaming, “Yes! Finally!” when it happened. He was used to that in high school.”
“Another one would be when the team was playing Alabama and DeVonte stood Mark Ingram up. They just hit head on and DeVonte stopped the Heisman winner. It was amazing.”
Dad: “You have got to go with the interceptions against Clemson. That hit on Ingram was pretty special though…”
Mom: “We just want people to know that DeVonte is a Gamecock and he is proud of it, regardless of who he committed to first. It’s who he is that actually counts. He is an SEC player and we are all forever Gamecock.”
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