Catching Up with Demetrius Douglas
Coming out of Lakeshore (now Westlake) High School in College Park, Georgia, in 1985, Demetrius Douglas was considered one of the state’s top prospects. As a middle linebacker at Georgia, Douglas played intermittently for the Bulldogs for three years before becoming one of the program’s top defenders of the late 1980s. From 1986-1989, he totaled 223 tackles, three sacks, three other tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, and five interceptions—and despite starting only 15 games during his Georgia career. Recognized as often “making big plays in big games,” Douglas’ totals include 63 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions in four games against chief rivals Florida and Auburn in 1988 and 1989.
Since his playing days at Georgia, Douglas has held several professional roles, including currently serving as an elected official in the Georgia House of Representatives. UGASports caught up with Douglas from his home in the Atlanta area:
UGASports: Did you grow up a Georgia fan? And talk a little about your recruiting process.
Douglas: “Actually, I’m originally from Ohio, so I'd always been an Ohio State fan. I moved to Atlanta when I started the 8th grade. At that point, I'd really only played basketball, so I didn’t get into football until the 9th grade—and I quit my first year. Honestly, because I'd always played basketball and usually played it indoors, my body wasn’t used to competing at a high level in the outside elements, like the weather, bugs (laughs), and all. But, I got back into football in the 10th grade and finally got serious about it in the 11th grade—and that’s when recruiters started coming around.”
UGASports: You were recruited to play basketball, as well, right?
Douglas: “Yes, earlier in high school, small mid-major schools had started recruiting me for basketball—schools like Stetson, Sam Houston State, and others. For football, my final decision came down to Georgia and Purdue. (Purdue?) Yes, Purdue had a pretty good program back then in the early to mid-80s. They knew I was originally from Ohio, so they really pushed for me hard. I really liked it up there. Kevin Sumlin (former head coach at Houston, Texas A&M, and Arizona), who was a linebacker for Purdue, was my host. He took me out and we had a great time. But, when Vince Dooley (Georgia’s head coach of the time) showed up at my house the week of signing day, that probably sealed me going to Georgia. Since he was the head coach, and not just a recruiter or assistant coach, him coming to my house was a big deal to me. That, and the fact I realized how much less taxing it’d be on my family to come see me play in Athens instead of them having to travel to West Lafayette, Indiana.”
UGASports: Can you explain further what we’ve heard before—that even 15 years or so after the first black players integrated the program, there still could be a strong sense of team division at Georgia because of race even as late as the 1980s?
Douglas: “I’ll give you my experience. I went from Ohio, where the street I lived on was a melting pot of all kinds of kids playing together and getting along—to College Park, where I attended a predominantly black school while playing on predominantly black teams. So, when I got to predominantly white UGA, it was strange to be playing with some white guys who had actually never had a black teammate before. With some of them, and even others who'd played with blacks before, there was often a feeling that although we were on the same team, we were separate.”
UGASports: And, you actually tried to “break barriers,” so to speak, between certain white players and black teammates, correct?
Douglas: “Yeah, I guess you could say I tried to break barriers (chuckling). So, one day while eating at our athletic dorm’s dining hall, I sat down at a table of white guys, who all instantly got up and moved as soon as I sat down. Well, to be funny, I continued to sit down with those same white players—and with one white guy in particular—and every time, he’d get up and leave. Then, me and a few other players started sitting down with the white player—and, each time we’d sit down, he would get up and leave without even saying anything. Around the time this was going on, I was out in Athens one night with several players, and this white player happened to be at the same bar. After having never talked to us when we sat down at his table, he finally spoke: ‘Why did you guys start sitting at my table?’ I first replied with, ‘We knew you didn’t like it,’ but then added that we mostly wanted to show him that there was little difference between us and him. ‘We’re just like you,’ I told him.”
UGASports: Did anything positive result from your interaction with the white player?
Douglas: “Man, it was unbelievable. Next thing you know, over a couple of beers, we (Douglas and some black teammates) became great teammates with not only this one particular white player, but other white teammates, as well. Suddenly, these white players supported us out in public—like when some fraternity guys would start calling us names, the white players would take up for us. These were the same guys who only months, maybe even weeks before, couldn’t even stand to sit and eat with us. Now, it was like we were more together, like a team.”
UGASports: After being redshirted because of an injury in 1985, primarily playing special teams in 1986, and playing mostly as a reserve in 1987 (Douglas did start the first two games of the season), you finally began to really stand out as a junior in 1988. What games really stand out to you?
Douglas: “So, I didn’t start as a junior until right before the Florida game against William & Mary—and, even then, I was only starting to fill in for an injury. I did well against William & Mary (11 tackles), but I knew I had to have a good performance against Florida to prove that me starting was no fluke. And, I’ll be honest, I went off against the Gators (laughing). I forget how many tackles I made (13, including a sack), but I had two interceptions and caused a fumble in a [26-3] win (as Douglas was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week). The next week at Auburn, again, I had to prove I was no fluke. That game, I made a bunch of tackles (22) and was named Georgia’s top player of the game (recipient of the Chevrolet Most Valuable Player Award).”
UGASports: In 1989, heading into your senior year, what was it like having Coach Dooley step down as head coach—and then replaced by Ray Goff, a 33-year-old running backs coach?
Douglas: “Honestly, we’re on very good terms now, but Coach Goff and I really didn’t see eye to eye after he and I had a run-in when I was a freshman. So, it was kind of tough on me to not only have my head coach (Dooley) retire—but then, my position coach, Dale Strahm, wasn’t even retained by Coach Goff.”
(Strahm, who was actually interviewed for UGA’s head coaching position before Goff, was the only assistant under Dooley who wasn’t offered a position by Goff. According to Strahm in a newspaper report, Goff “felt very uneasy with [Strahm’s] situation because of [his] candidacy [for the head coaching job] and the strong support [Strahm] had [with players and alumni/boosters].”)
UGASports: After playing for Georgia, although not drafted, you got an opportunity to play pro ball, right?
Douglas: “I got a free agency shot with the New York Jets for the 1990 season, but was released. I caught on with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian League, signing a two-year deal, before the Washington Redskins eventually noticed me and asked me to their camp. On my second day of practice with the Redskins, I suffered a high-ankle sprain and was ultimately released. At that point, I decided to call it quits as far as pro football goes.”
UGASports: When did you decide to return to school to get your degree?
Douglas: “Since I was minoring in marketing (majoring in education), I was told by UGA that I lacked two marketing classes to graduate—and I could take the classes at Clayton State. But I'd started working in the mortgage business—first, for a friend’s company as a mortgage originator, and, then, for my own company originating loans. At some point, my company started to do well enough where I took a semester off from my work to go to Clayton State. There, attending class every day, I took the two classes I needed and got my degree.”
UGASports: Besides working in the mortgage business, you’ve also coached football, right?
Douglas: “Yes, although I took this past  football season off, I’ve coached football at Arlington Christian School, Henry W. Grady High School, Lovejoy High School, and where my youngest daughter is currently a senior, Dutchtown High School.”
UGASports: Speaking of which: briefly tell us about your family.
Douglas: “My wife, Veda Douglas, and I have been married for 23 years. We have two daughters, Destiny and Demi.”
UGASports: We don’t see how you possibly have time for it, amongst your other job roles and family, but tell us about you being a member of the Georgia House of Representatives—how, when, why, etc.
Douglas: “I represent House District 78, which includes parts of Clayton and Henry counties—and I was first elected in July 2012, so I was just reelected for my fifth consecutive two-year term. My initiatives are children, economic development to where it creates jobs, and our senior citizens. As far as how I got into politics, I was one day approached by a guy who'd been a campaign manager for a friend of mine from UGA. The campaign manager asked me if I had ever considered running for office since, according to him, ‘I knew everybody (chuckling).’ Through my two girls, my family had really been involved with the community, the PTA, and things like that. I did know a lot of people, including many in my area whom I'd helped get into homes (mortgages). After thinking about it, and praying, I told the campaign manager that if he’d give me a plan, not only would I stick with it, but, me being a competitor, I thought I would win the election. So, I got a plan where I knocked on 100 doors per day for a month and a half! That was the first time I ran for office—and I wound up winning over an incumbent.”
UGASports: What’s your association with the Bulldog football program?
Douglas: “I haven’t done a whole lot with the program since Kirby [Smart] has been head coach—but, toward the end of [Mark] Richt’s time [as head coach], I was the honorary captain for Georgia’s game against North Texas (2013), and I received a post-graduate achievement award [in 2014] from the NFF/College Hall of Fame’s University of Georgia chapter.”
UGASports: Finally, what can you add about your overall experience as a student-athlete at Georgia?
Douglas: “I had a wonderful time at Georgia, and got a great education which led to me owning my own business. But more so, I built some great relationships—relationships which have helped me in life. If a player wants to make the state of Georgia their home after their football career, I highly recommend attending this great place (UGA), a great institution. The students I went to UGA with are now ‘running the state': the doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, business owners, and others—the go-getters. It’s good to have relationships with the go-getters, whatever career you’re in, because nine times out of ten, there’s going to be a host of UGA graduates in that field or running that business. In other words, whatever your field in the state of Georgia, it's very likely that someone high up in that same field attended the University of Georgia—and it’s ideal for you to have/build a relationship with that fellow ‘Dawg.’ To that, I say, once a Dawg, always a Dawg—and we take care of each other. And that’s what it’s about.”