Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2013
MOCKSVILLE — The story goes that the Holman family had to sit on the 50-yard-line at South Carolina State-North Carolina Central football matchups and cheer for both teams because there was a Holman playing on each side.
“Those men playing were my uncles,” said Devore Holman, who was recently named as Davie’s new head coach. “I come from a long football background.”
Holman is a name that’s been respected in Rowan County for a long time. One of Devore’s football-playing uncles was the late Baxter Holman Jr., who was team captain at North Carolina Central. After he played in the Canadian Football League, Baxter coached in the Winston-Salem high school ranks in the 1960s. During the years of segregation, he coached at all-black Anderson High, and he piloted Anderson to a 3A runner-up finish in 1966 and a state title in 1967.
When Winston schools integrated, Baxter was named head coach at Mount Tabor, and in a Remember the Titans sort of scenario, he demonstrated to an initially skeptical white community and white players that he was the best man for the job. He was coach of the year in 1970.
Baxter’s record at Mount Tabor was a springboard to college jobs, and he was an assistant at Winston-Salem State before being named Livingstone’s head coach in the summer of 1973. He taught classes, recruited players, won football games and was named 1974 CIAA Coach of the Year.
So Devore Holman has two tough acts to follow, not just an uncle who’s in the Forsyth County Hall of Fame, but previous Davie coach Doug Illing, who led the War Eagles to a long string of winning seasons, putting up a marvelous 126-66 record in 15 years at the helm at a rural 4A school.
“I always thought about how it would be if I was a head coach,” Holman said. “Doug told me when he was leaving (for Socastee, S.C.) that it was my time now, and I believe he has prepared me very well to do this job.”
Holman’s wife, Tina, teaches at Southeast Middle School, and he calls her the “backbone to his life.” He is a Davie lifer. The 47-year-old graduated from Davie in 1984 after playing on the defensive line for coach Mike Carter. Playing for Carter taught him football, but it also taught him lessons that went well beyond the field.
“Mike Carter was a great influence on the direction my life took, and he showed me how much football coaches affect a young man’s life,” Holman said. “When he called me the other night to congratulate me, it reminded me that football is about more than X’s and O’s. We want to win our share of games along the way, but it’s the game of life that’s really important. I want to help all our players prepare to play that game of life. Teenagers will make bonehead choices sometimes. What we can do as coaches is provide a positive atmosphere that helps them make better choices.”
Carter gave Holman his coaching start as a volunteer defensive line coach for Davie in 1988. Then he was out of football two seasons, before Randall Ward brought him back, still as a volunteer, in 1991. He continued to volunteer as a defensive line coach until he was hired by the school system in 1996. In 1999, he was named as Illing’s defensive coordinator, and he has performed admirably in that role ever since.
Davie has reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs four times, had a serious powerhouse that made the semifinals in 2004, and made a Cinderella run to the 4A title game in 2010. Holman has been a huge part of it. He is recognized as a defensive mastermind and speaks at coaches’ clinics. Holman’s defenses have been stout whether Davie had great personnel or average personnel.
Now Holman makes the transition from head coach of the defense to head coach of an entire program.
“I’m confident I can manage the games well,” Holman said. “But some stuff does change. I’ll be dealing with the community more and with the media more and with the middle schools more and the parents more. Parents can get upset about playing time. I understand that. I can listen positively to their concerns. Sometimes they just want someone to listen to them, and I can be that ear.”
Brian Pitts, who has covered Davie football for the Davie County Enterprise for years, says the War Eagles couldn’t have made a more popular choice.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in Davie with something negative to say about Devore,” Pitts said. “He’s well-liked, but he’s also respected and isn’t afraid to be a disciplinarian.”
It’s hard to find a coach whom players will run through fire for, but Holman fits that description.
“It’s a smart move by Davie to hire him,” said West Rowan coach Scott Young, who was an assistant at Davie in the 1990s. “When you have a successful program, there’s no need to look outside for a coach. Devore is a close friend. He’s a good coach, but he’s an even better man.”
Davie received 21 applications and interviewed six candidates, but Holman offers stability, continuity and respect, and he’s closely tied to many years of success.
“Doug left this program in great shape,” Holman said. “I want to keep building on the tradition that he built.”
Davie’s “Men of Summer” program is under way. War Eagles lift weights on Mondays and Wednesdays and run through drills on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A couple of 7-on-7s with East Rowan are upcoming.
Veteran staff members Todd Bumgarner (offense) and Tim Devericks (defense) will serve as Holman’s coordinators. David Hunt, who coordinated the defense for West Rowan’s run of three straight 3A titles, is out of retirement and on the Davie staff for the first time since 1998. David Wooldridge, who punted at UNC, will work with kickers.
Doug Smith, who was running the ball for Davie a dozen years ago, is the new jayvee coach.
Davie tackles Greensboro Page at home on Aug. 23 to open a new era. Davie will renew its rivalry with West Rowan, and the War Eagles also will tangle with North Rowan.
“I’m humbled and honored and excited to be the head coach at this school,” Holman said. “I’ve got the best assistants in the state and the best kids in the world.”