Football means something different to everyone. For a handful of new Kentucky football players, it’s a lot like the SEC. It just means more.
In Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class, three athletes played for their fathers before moving to Lexington — wide receiver DeMarcus Harris, cornerback MJ Devonshire and safety Moses Douglass. Two made UK’s first depth chart and all three are expected to receive significant snaps as true freshmen. It’s not a coincidence.
“Them guys come in with a different swag, and they come in knowing that it’s business,” Vince Marrow said. “Some things that you see other kids may do off the field, they won’t do, because probably of who their fathers were.”
Accountability is a characteristic ingrained into the sons of football coaches. That is only amplified when your Dad played for Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears. Before he joined the Bears, Mo Douglas starred at the University of Kentucky for Jerry Claibourne. After playing for a pair of hard-nosed coaches, Douglass became one in the Ohio high school ranks.
Douglass’ son Moses, a four-star defensive back from Springfield High School, enrolled at UK for the spring semester. The lessons he learned from his dad made the transition much easier.
“Playing for my dad in high school, it was tough,” Moses told KSR. “I feel like if it wasn’t for him, I’d still be in the spot I’m in, but I don’t think I’d have as much knowledge as I do now. It was tough so it got me ready for times like this that are even tougher, so I appreciate him coaching me up.”
It may have been tough on the field, but in the Douglass family football did not enter the home. Mo would not coach his son outside of school, that is, unless Moses asked.
“If it was football it was because of me. I was asking him something or I was telling him, ‘Dad, can we go get some extra work at the field?'”
Douglass could escape football in the comfort of his home. For others, football never stopped.
“It’s like you gotta be a perfectionist in my house,” said MJ Devonshire. “It was different having my Dad be on me everyday. In the schools, he was a teacher so you couldn’t avoid him. Most kids, they mess up in practice, they go home, forget about it and start new. When I mess up in practice, we’re going to go home, we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to get it fixed. We got a whiteboard, we have footballs, we got everything at home to have a full practice if I need to.”
That’s not an exaggeration.
“Absolutely. We never really stopped because there was always preparation,” Marlin Devonshire told KSR.
“We always worked out. He caught like 200 passes a day, tucked the ball under both arms, low ball, high ball. We had the shield for angle tackling, stuff that little kids don’t work on. He ran a lot, go out and flip the tire, that way we didn’t have to leave to go workout…I had ladders, jackets, weighted vests and masks. We had it all at home. Probably the only thing we were missing were the lines on the field.”
It may have been overbearing for his son at times, but Marlin Devonshire knew when to give his son space. Before his son attended Aliquippa High School, Marlin coached wide receivers and defensive backs. He transitioned over to linebackers and tight ends to give MJ somebody else’s perspective on the position. Still, he was pushing MJ in the weight room as the team’s strength coach.
“There was a lot of days I had to get on his back, yell at him, push him,” Marlin said. “Sometimes I had to really step back and be Dad.”
Being Dad of a college football player and a high school football coach means many sleepless nights. After Aliquippa opens their season against Waynesburg Central, the Devonshires will hop in a car and drive six hours through the night to be in Lexington in time for kickoff against Toledo.
The sons of coaches learned at an early age the meaning of accountability and sacrifice. It may have taken many nights of whiteboard sessions, film study and tackling drills in the backyard, but it was all worth it.
“I was really hard on him, pushing him and making him work,” said Marlin Devonshire. “It’s really funny in retrospect but as a father whose kid has a dream, you just want to give him every opportunity.”