Beyond football: Demerick Gary is the new GA on Sack Ave

Houston defensive line coach Brian Early is a relentless recruiter, hyper-focused on building a relationship and, ultimately, getting his man. Just ask D’Anthony Jones, the CEO of Sack Ave. Early loved what he saw on his film – the versatility, the way he made plays, and D’Anthony’s unique skill set. But when Early took the time to get to know him, he liked D’Anthony the person even more.

Jones says that Early had a plan for him from the first time they talked. They spoke the same language, and the coach understood kids that had a hard childhood. He understood because he’d lived it: just over 10 years ago, Early and his wife Nanci asked Dre Greenlaw to move in with them, a 14-year old that lived in different boys homes for half his life. The Early family adopted Dre three years later.

“I liked Early’s personality. He seemed like he cared about me,” D’Anthony said. “I had it tough growing up and his son did as well. So he knew how to talk to me about those things.”

Eventually, Early pried Jones away from an interest in Boise State, and since then, he’s become a significant contributor as a pass-rush specialist.

You could also ask Latrell Bankston, who Early recruited for a year while in JUCO. Then he went after him when he went in the portal, then again when he changed his mind after a few days at Louisiana. Bankston was third among defensive tackles in pressuring the quarterback in 2021, despite being a little shorter than the average DT, and playing fewer snaps than the others.

“Look at most of the people he recruited,” Jones pointed out. “Undersized but we are all complete ballers! Maybe he knows something these other coaches don’t know.”

For Early’s most recent recruiting win or his longest recruiting cycle, get to know Demerick Gary, the former SMU defensive tackle that just agreed to be UH’s assistant DL coach. Gary will work with Early in the day-to-day coaching, development, and recruiting.

Early began recruiting Demerick (pronounced DEM-rick) in 2014 when, as a coach at Arkansas State, he offered after his sophomore season at Dallas Kimball High School. Gary was a strong-side defensive end, and his HUDL highlights show him wrecking overmatched DISD teams that couldn’t deal with a 6’2, 245-pounder coming around the corner. So early gave Gary his first FBS offer, and the strong-side defensive end took his first out-of-state unofficial visit to see a Red Wolves game in Jonesboro. They built a relationship over 18 months before Gary decided to stay home and Pony Up. He said he wrestled with the decision and wanted to play for Early and that the coach almost had him, but playing in front of momma won out.

While he did not have a particularly stand-out career at SMU, Demerick always showed up against the Cougars. He sacked Greg Ward twice in 2016 (his freshman season) and had a strip-sacked Clayton Tune on the last play of the 2019 game to seal the Mustang win.

Gary (#10) reaching for Mulbah Car in 2019 / Photo by Mario Puente

Gary wanted to come to Houston as a graduate assistant a year ago, but the timing wasn’t right. UH had a talented GA already working with the defensive line, so he went to Arkansas for a season. But this week, the stars aligned, and Dem finally gave Early his recruiting win when he accepted the job of assistant DL coach. Now he’ll work to keep Brian Early and the Sack Ave Boys as one of the top units in college football.

Early thinks Gary is passionate about coaching and hungry for information and was on the shortlist of guys he wanted to talk to when the GA spot opened up. For his part, Demerick said Early was persistent in recruiting him, which current players also say. He is “the same person he is now” compared to the recruiter he met in high school. “He’s a fired-up, dialed-in type of guy.”

After one season at SMU, Gary switched to defensive tackle, a spot more suited to his size and skills. Now, he believes that having played inside and outside is helping him be a better coach.

“No doubt. You’ve been in it, you know what I’m saying? You’ve been in those situations, so you know what those guys go through,” Gary said in an interview with GoCoogs.

“That’s just helping me understand our guys. I want to teach the way that Coach Early wants to teach things. Also, when he allows me to teach things the way I think they should be taught, I’ll do it that way.”

Building Relationships Beyond Football

Demerick started training for SMU’s Pro Day when after finishing his career in 2019. But the event, scheduled for March 26 the following spring, was canceled during the early lockdowns of the pandemic, effectively ending his playing career. So Gary switched gears and started working the phones looking for graduate assistant jobs or anything to get his foot in the door. Colleges were unsure if they would play in 2020, and no offers were coming. Finally, he decided to call Archie McDaniel, one of his coaches at SMU, who is now the linebackers coach at UH. McDaniel suggested he go coach high school football.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Gary said. “Coach Mc, he’s like a mentor to me. He’ll hit me up, or I can always hit him up. Our relationship is really tight, beyond football.”

Beyond football. That summer, Coach Courtney Allen from North Crowley HS in Fort Worth called to offer him a job coaching defensive ends and freshman team defensive coordinator. From day one, Gary was a hit.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot,” Allen said about Demerick last year. “The kids relate to him and he plays the role well. He doesn’t act like a young guy. He coaches as if he’s been coaching for years. He’s not just coaching the kid that’s talented, he’s actually trying to fix and correct things. I think that’s huge.”

Gary instantly took to coaching and mentoring younger guys, finding a way to funnel his abundant energy into his new career.

“That is such a fulfilling feeling when guys master what you’re teaching or executing the things you draw up,” Gary said.

Demerick speaking to a DISD football team

Beginning with his year at North Crowley, Gary and Early would see each other at clinics and talk ball on the phone. The relationship that had started in 2014 between coach and rising high school junior picked right up again. Before getting into coaching, Gary was a journalism major at SMU and spent some time as a recruiting intern for HawgBeat, the Arkansas Rivals website, giving him an inside look at the Arkansas program. Gary connected with a coach who put him in contact with Arkansas’ new DL coach. When a spot opened as a GA there, and UH had no room for him, he jumped at it.

Immediately, he stood out in Fayetteville. “Through the first three days, I’ve really been impressed with how vocal defensive line assistant coach Demerick Gary is,” read a report from WholeHogSports.com. “Gary is a terrific voice all throughout position drills. He’s constantly pushing guys and has been very encouraging. I think guys are responding well to him.”

“He brings a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and you know, we needed that,” defensive end Dorian Gerald told WholeHogSports. “We needed to make our D-line get more into it and he definitely brings the excitement and energy to everybody, not just the D-line.”

“He’s loud! He’s a great addition to us,” DL Eric Gregory added.

While at Arkansas, Gary played a role in on-campus recruiting and is credited by Texas Top 50 Trey Wilson (DL – Lakeview Centennial c/o 2023) as being a big part of his recruitment. “I just like the attitude he brings to the development of the player,” Wilson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in the fall. Wilson visited Arkansas twice unofficially last season and again this week, in large part due to Gary’s work recruiting him.

He also helped get Arkansas in the picture for four-star OL Connor Stroh (Frisco Wakeland c/o 2023), getting the 6’7″ 345-pound giant to Fayetteville for their game with Mississippi State. Stroh says Gary is the one that invited him and thanked him just after Sam Pittman and his would-be position coach.

Houston coaches think he will be a good fit for the Coogs, on the field and in recruiting. Others have noticed, too: on Thursday, after accepting the UH job, Demerick received an offer from Ohio State to be a GA in the Buckeyes program. He politely declined.

DFW Connection: Bigger Than Football

Last fall, Dana Holgorsen pointed out that UH had renewed its focus on Metroplex recruiting. After the Thursday game at Tulane, UH sent most assistant coaches to DFW to visit campuses and scout Friday night games. One of those was Early, who has shifted part of his recruiting responsibility to the Metroplex. That’s a perfect fit for his new GA, a proud Oak Cliff guy who tattooed his leg with the Triple-D Dallas logo that SMU often uses. While he waited for his chance with NFL scouts, Gary worked out at Kimball, choosing to pay the $5 daily deposit to use the facility rather than go across town to SMU. He relished being an example for inner-city kids coming out of a situation similar to his own.

“It’s really big for me for kids in my neighborhood to see that…that you can be and do something positive,” Gary said in a Youtube video from 2020. “I always want to show the kids in my neighborhood that there are other options than the streets, than drugs, than fast-money ways. Go get your education. You don’t have to be confined to your neighborhood, you don’t have to be confined to what they tell you that you’re gonna be.”

SMU’s billboard promoting Demerick Gary in Oak Cliff

It’s obvious why SMU chose to put him on billboards, making him one of the faces of their program. His authenticity, passion, and desire to influence the lives of others will translate as a coach and a recruiter. In addition, his backstory will give him the credibility he can use to forge relationships.

“In this business, sometimes I think guys may forget that,” Gary told GoCoogs. “They forget those relationships that you once may have had with a coach, or somebody like that, a father figure. And so, I take true pride in that. That’s a part of why I coach. It’s to impact, to inspire, and to invest in people, in the young men’s lives through the game of football.

“That’s my reason. That’s my ‘why’ I’m coaching.”

There’s also a practical side to it.

“You have to have relationships to coach. In order to get through to a kid, to have the production you want, and to have a kid execute the way you want him to, you have to have those relationships. My first goal is to start building relationships with those guys in (UH’s defensive line) room. I’m gonna coach them hard, I’m going to demand excellence but I also, too, want to understand their ‘why.’ Understand why they play the game, why they play with the tenacity they play with.

“I’m trying to make sure I’m developing guys who will be great men in life,” Gary said. “We’re just doing all that through football. But it’s bigger than football. It’s been bigger than football, and it’ll always be bigger than football.”

Bigger than football. Though much of his life has been around the game, Gary knows that ball might not always be there. He’s thought about coaching for years, but a broadcasting career could also interest him. There was no journalism program at Kimball, and, in the past, Demerick has discussed bringing journalism programs to inner-city schools. Everything comes back to a belief in giving kids opportunities and helping them take advantage of them.

“I’m not where I want to be yet but I’m striving to higher places,” Demerick said. “I want them to know that they can do it no matter the circumstances they come from. I think that the’s biggest thing is being willing to learn and being willing to grow. And I think I was willing to grow.”

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