Georgia Tech Athletics Donor Profile: John Dewberry
It's easy for people to define John Dewberry by the way his career as Georgia Tech's quarterback began and ended, but there's one statistic that properly frames his tenure.
In the history of the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, there have been 21 games where Georgia entered ranked and Tech unranked. The Yellow Jackets won only two of those games, and Dewberry was under center for both of them.
"I didn't know about that until last year," Dewberry remarked. "All I cared about was winning. There was a difference between me and most Georgia Tech people. I didn't think I was going to beat them, I knew I was going to beat them."
That drive and determination earned him a reputation as one of the toughest players on the Flats, and he has parlayed those attributes into the business world, emerging as one of Atlanta's leading real estate developers.
Dewberry spent the early years of his life in Virginia before his family moved to Boston and finally Roswell, a northern suburb of Atlanta. He starred at Milton High School in the early 80's both on the field and in the classroom, drawing the interest of several schools including Georgia Tech.
"I didn't really grow up as a Tech fan, but Coach [Bill] Curry and I enjoyed a nice recruiting experience," he recalled. "My father really liked him. Behind the scenes, he was trying to tell Georgia Tech how to recruit me, because he wanted me to go there. He knew it would change my life, and he was right."
However, the younger Dewberry thought life would be easier at the University of Georgia "handing off to Herschel," so he accepted a scholarship and headed to Athens. After just one season, he realized it wasn't the right fit for him.
"I wasn't happy and I wasn't developing athletically or academically, but it wasn't anyone's fault but my own," he said. "I needed a change and a new opportunity. I genuinely believe God wanted me to walk that path that led me to Georgia Tech."
Few, if any, high-profile athletes have transferred from one archrival to the other, and the move created controversy within both fan bases. After sitting out a season per NCAA rules, Dewberry got a chance to answer his critics on the field in 1983.
Though undersized at his position, Dewberry always exceeded expectations on the field. He was a prototypical "gamer," playing mediocre in practice but spectacular on gamedays.
"I was fortunate to play with the guys I played with," he said. "Credit Coach Curry for putting together a group that cared about each other.
"We weren't the best players that ever stepped on the field, but I thought I was, and I had the rest of them convinced they were too. We played like it on Saturdays. We played with a swagger. We fought together, and we won together a lot."
There were memorable victories over Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and North Carolina, among others. However, his career ended on a sour note when Curry suspended him on the eve of the All-American Bowl for a rules violation.
Despite playing only three seasons, Dewberry's name is peppered throughout the Tech record books. He was All-ACC in 1984 when he led the conference in total offense, and he still ranks fifth all-time in school history in total offense and passing yardage.
Like most Tech students, Dewberry found the academic side of life difficult. He remembers the shock of getting his first D on a test, but he soon adjusted and became at two-time All-ACC Academic team member.
"The academic experience was life-changing," he said. "I like a challenge. I like the journey of difficult tasks. It was hard, but it made me a better person, a better man, a better teammate and a better friend. I think that's true for a lot of folks."
After graduating with a degree in Management in 1986, Dewberry headed north to the Canadian Football League. After a short, injury-plagued stint with Calgary, he retired from football and focused on career in finance and real estate. Another Tech quarterback-turned-developer, Kim King, took Dewberry under his wing.
In 1989, he formed his own company, Dewberry Capital Corporation, and he has built it into one of top firms in the southeast. The company is involved with many of Atlanta's premier development projects, and Dewberry has been recognized over and over as one of the city's leading businessmen.
Through the years, Dewberry has been an ardent Georgia Tech supporter, attending many games. He's a Life Member of the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, and he is a member of the Alumni Association's board of trustees. Additionally, he has his own foundation that supports youth education initiatives.
He's accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime, and sitting in his corner office overlooking Peachtree Street, Dewberry is quite content and has few regrets. It's been 18 years since his career ended, but he still gets plenty of comments about his time at Georgia Tech.