If Fisher DeBerry had his way, the podium would be expanded to accommodate all people that paved the way for his induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
DeBerry was head coach of the Air Force Academy football program from 1984 through 2006 and helped the Falcons notch 17 winning seasons, three conference titles and 12 bowl appearances in his 23 years as head coach.
“I didn’t do it all by myself,” he said. “It was a blend of outstanding players and devoted coaches. It’s a team thing and not a recognition for Fisher DeBerry.” DeBerry is the winningest coach in Air Force history with a 169-107-1 record. The Falcons also dominated their rivalries with Army and Navy under his tutelage, compiling a 34-11 record against those two rival schools and winning 15 of 22 Commander-in-Chief’s trophies during his tenure.
DeBerry, 69, won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award as national NCAA football coach-of-theyear in 1985 and was honored as Western Athletic Conference coach-of-the-year in 1985, 1995 and 1998. He served as president of the American Football Coaches Association in 1996.
The highly respected mentor retired Dec. 15, 2006. He and his wife LuAnn have residences in South Carolina and Oklahoma and he attended many football games last season, including three Air Force games.
“I realize now, a season away from football, that it’s more than a game,” he said. “It’s the relationships. That’s what I miss most about football, the players and the coaching. You forget about most of the games but not the relationships.”
A native of Cheraw, South Carolina, DeBerry was a four-sport varsity athlete in high school. He lettered five times in baseball, three times each in football and basketball and twice in track. He was an all-state selection in baseball and football.
DeBerry graduated in 1960 from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where he also lettered in football and baseball. After coaching and teaching for six years in the South Carolina high school ranks, he returned to Wofford as an assistant coach for two seasons when the team won 21 consecutive games and was top-ranked in the NAIA. Subsequently, he spent nine years as an assistant at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina, and that was where he learned and fine-tuned the option offense that turned him into a winner at Air Force.
DeBerry was hired in 1980 as quarterbacks coach at Air Force and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1981 before taking over as head coach in 1984.
“I enjoy coming back to Colorado to renew friendships,” he said. “I’m grateful for the recognition that the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame brings to the Academy and my former players. I’m very flattered, honored and humbled.”
DeBerry and his wife remain active in community and church affairs and the couple continues to work and promote the Fisher DeBerry Foundation that benefits single-parent families.
When the challenges come up, it doesn’t concern me one bit, because I know it ain’t going to go in our favor.