The American football player is an emblem of patriotism, endurance, skill and strength. From a high school kicker to an NFL quarterback, every player symbolizes the ideals that our country was built on. However, once the bleachers are empty and the team uniform is off, some players struggle to keep these attributes. Now there is a man in Murfreesboro that is instilling inspiration in local football players with his story of struggle and success.
There was a poverty stricken home in Calera, Ala., where 70-year-old Kate Gaiters made a choice. Her decision was to choose life for her 4-month-old great-grandson by adopting him. The child was abandoned by both his mother and father and his saving grace was her kindheartedness. She continued to raise Byron on a $400 a month welfare check and food stamps. So although life wasn’t luxurious while living with his great-grandmother, De’Vinner was grateful to have a life at all.
De’Vinner’s story does not stop with Gaiters’ decision to raise him. Although his mother abandoned him as a baby, she allowed De’Vinner to visit her home by the time he was five years old. De’Vinner’s hope for a relationship with his mother only led to years of abuse from her. It was when his great-grandmother urged him to get involved in extracurricular activities that De’Vinner found an escape from the painful situations in his life.
After struggling with grades, De’Vinner said, “I was fortunate enough to complete high school and receive two football scholarship offers.” The scholarship led De’Vinner to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he played offensive tackle and majored in communications.
After success in college, he still struggled with his relationship with his abusive mother and tough financial issues. And on De’Vinner’s birthday, Nov. 5, 1999, Katie Gaiters passed away.
“I had to do something for her because she had done so much for me,” De’Vinner said. “I created the [De’Vinner] foundation because of what she stood for and all of the kids that she helped.”
The foundation became established on Nov. 5, 2004. This date has significant meaning to De’Vinner because his great-grandmother passed away five years earlier.
Just like De’Vinner’s, the beginnings of the foundation were humble with just a charity softball game in his hometown. Now the foundation has relocated to Murfreesboro and hosts football camps for youth.
College and NFL players are coaches in the camp to help develop athletic skill and a passion for the game. Pro-athletes like Deshea Townsend (Pittsburgh Steelers), Reggie Grimes (New England Patriots), Pierre Goode (Denver Broncos), Brent Fullwood (Green Bay Packers) and others attend the camp. Also in attendance were 303 boys ranging from age five to high school senior. Girls are also encouraged to attend the camp.
The foundation has also teamed up with local businesses to give back to the less fortunate kids of Rutherford county. In 2006, with help from Dick’s Sporting Goods, they sponsored a Christmas toy drive and gave out shoes and backpacks.
De’Vinner has now published his story and is in the process of writing a book.
“I believe it is time to share my story because I have come to know others that share similar experiences, and I hope that in doing so I will reach so many others that may be going through what I did as a youth and let them know that they are not alone,” De’Vinner writes.
He is also working with the Dallas Mavericks’ Shane Foster to create a basketball camp that will take place in either Murfreesboro or at Vanderbilt.
“Hopefully the camp will be ready for next year,” De’Vinner said. “It will be another way to give back to the kids in this area.”
So, Byron De’Vinner is proof that greatness does not happen when one puts on a football jersey. It’s the ideals of strength and endurance and hope that De’Vinner carries with him while he is off the field. And hopefully, his inspired story will build these same characteristics in the youth of Rutherford County.
For more on Byron De’Vinner’s story and the De’Vinner Foundation, visit byrondevinner foundation.org or call (615) 525-0077.