ATLANTA (Nov. 22, 2009) – With the big Georgia v. Georgia Tech foot ball game days away, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a follow-up profile on John Dewberry. Dewberry played quarterback at both schools and committed the cardinal sin of transferring from Georgia to Georgia Tech then beating the Dogs in Athens and being photographed with a twig from Athens' famous hedges.
Dewberry made big news late last year when he shared with WSB-TV in Atlanta that he is fighting prostate cancer. That cancer now is in remission, according to today's article, written by former AJC sports and business reporter Mike Tierney.
In the article, Dewberry responds to critics who lambasted him for not yet developing the prime corner he controls at 10th and Peachtree streets. It'll happen in due time, Dewberry tells Tierney. "Atlanta is not ready for 'Rockefeller Center South,' and that's what I intend to do."
The link to the article isn't up yet at ajc.com, so I've pasted the text below, as a service to Skyline Views readers. Let me know know what you think.
The ex-Bulldog who stung Georgia: Win 25 years ago prepared him for a more personal battle. The real story behind the piece of the hedge.
For the AJC
22 November 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, All Rights Reserved
Dec. 1, 1984: A day suitable for John Dewberry's scrapbook in a life filled with them, particularly from the past two years.
It dawned at breakfast in Athens when someone tossed a newspaper column onto Dewberry's plate, stirring his competitive juices to a froth. It wound down with an arrest for drunk driving by what he maintains was an avenging, Dawg-loving cop.
In between, he squired his football team, Georgia Tech, to a seismic 35-18 victory against his former team, Georgia. The game defined Dewberry as a quarterback and reserved his place in the pantheon of Yellow Jackets sports.
Twenty-five years ago . . .
"Hard to believe," the cancer-fighting jet-setter said recently in the Midtown offices of Dewberry Capital, a real estate development firm he founded and runs. "There were great lessons learned that day — right into the night."
One lesson being, Father knows best. Dewberry ignored dad's counsel, not for the first time.
He had signed with UGA in 1981 out of Milton High, resisting Gary Dewberry's subtle steering toward Tech. Once in Athens, he heard this parental advice: "You need to see the writing on the wall. You're not going to play quarterback for coach [Vince] Dooley."
A typical smart (but not as smart as he thought) teen, Dewberry dismissed dad's wisdom until a sense of depression set in.
"My confidence was crippled," he said. "I was lower than the curb."
Dewberry did not pass on Tech again, transferring there after one season — one of only two players in the modern era to make such a move, according to school record-keepers. Academically, he considered it an upgrade, though he says laudably of UGA, "It was not like it is there today."
A friend questioned his sanity. "What in the world have you done?" future socialite Marla Maples told him. "You better make this work."
A cherished moment
A broken collarbone suffered at Tech was a hidden blessing. "They couldn't see how bad I'd been throwing" when fit, he says.
Upon healing, Dewberry would haul a sack of footballs to the campus' track oval at sun up and throw, by his count, 400 times daily. Coach Billy Curry named him starter in '83, a losing season that closed with an encouraging defeat to Georgia 27-24.
The following year, Tech road-tripped to Athens having lost six of the latest seven there. The newspaper's sports column atop Dewberry's eggs and grits foresaw a dominant Bulldogs defense. The steam teammates saw was not pouring out of coffee pots, but from Dewberry's ears. "The game was over right then," he said.
Flanked by a strong support group that featured running back Robert Lavette and tight end Ken Whisenhunt, plus a push-back defense, Tech stormed ahead 35-6. Early in the fourth quarter, clock running to the Jackets' liking, Dewberry called timeout, much to the consternation of Curry and the befuddlement of huddlemates.
He urged the senior players to cherish the moment, for all of them to acknowledge friends and family in Sanford Stadium. Then he observed, "Notice how all the people in red are leaving."
A few Jackets fretted that Dewberry was prematurely popping the cork. "They can't throw the football," he shot back. "I know. I used to run their offense."
The main photograph in the Sunday papers depicted Dewberry clutching a twig from the stadium's sacred hedge, further vilifying him in the college town.
Dewberry pleads innocent. Here's his story and he's sticking to it:
Spotting two teammates defiling the shrubbery, he told them, "Guys, quit that. It's sacrilegious."
One of them thrust a piece into Dewberry hands, with profane instructions on what he could do with it. When Curry embraced him, twig still in his grasp, the cameras clicked away.
The next morning, Dewberry had more pressing concerns than a photo. Disregarding dad's advice, he skipped the team bus ride to stay in Athens with his brother Doug — former Georgia linebacker, current executive with Dewberry Capital — and girlfriend for "a few cocktails."
On the late drive back to Atlanta, he had stopped his car in a parking lot when a police officer asked to see a license. Dewberry says the cop was returning it when he did a double-take at the name.
"Wait a minute," the officer said, according to the perp. "You're the fool that ran us all over the field today. You're coming with me."
His blood-alcohol content exceeded the legal limit. Gleeful Georgia fans began spelling his surname DUI-berry.
"I was devastated by that," said Dewberry, admitting failure as a role model.
The lifelong bachelor has enjoyed a charmed existence since, except for a blip last year. His company — seeded mainly 20 years ago with a $5,000 bonus from the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League — claims $600 million in assets under his management, including two hotel properties that he hopes evolves into a national chain.
One sits on 4 prime acres at 10th and Peachtree streets owned by Dewberry, who has absorbed potshots from peers and others eager to see the property developed.
Don't rush me, says the ex-quarterback, who envisions high-end shops and residences springing up once the economy rebounds.
"Atlanta is not ready for 'Rockefeller Center South,' and that's what I intend to do," he said.
Bargains that bubble up in the recession energize him. Employing a sports metaphor, he said, "This is where I like to play."
His biggest fight
Dewberry's play days appeared over in the summer of '08. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"It was life threatening," said his physician, Dr. Bob Cowles, who operates the Cowles Clinic in Greensboro, near Lake Oconee. "Very serious."
In the standard PSA test, Dewberry registered a sky-high 320. His normal figure: two. Cancer was discovered in the lymph nodes and bones.
"Dr. Cowles told me, 'If you do not respond to this treatment, you have no more than two years,' " Dewberry recalled.
Cowles described the regimen, involving radiation and hormones, as ultra-aggressive. "John has fought it with as much vigor and gusto as any patient I've ever seen," he said.
To cover every base, Dewberry consulted regularly with a hands-on "healer" in Ireland, where he often visits.
"John, he goes out there on the edge," said Cowles, who neither endorses nor discourages such "way-out crazy things."
Dewberry later swore off hormone treatments, the most common counterattack for prostate cancer. However it happened, his PSA count returned to normal in January. "Which," Cowles said, "is, frankly, miraculous."
He declared Dewberry cancer-free in April, though noted that a recurrence is possible. His patient gulps down two dozen pills daily and has quarterly check-ups.
Dewberry has moved into a rental house and walks in the morning darkness to work with Georgia, a German short-haired pointer. He'll stop to enjoy the breeze on his face and the smells of nature, sensory experiences that he took for granted pre-cancer. "It's been a mixed blessing," he declared.
Much like the memorable day in Athens 25 years ago.
Georgia at Georgia Tech
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
TV; radio: ABC; 750, 790, 106.7