Apr 082008
Authors: Pat Graham

DENVER (AP) _ Fisher DeBerry stays plenty busy these days by visiting his grandkids, speaking at charity events and working on another book.

The former Air Force Falcons coach hasn’t missed football, though.

Well, sort of.

“I miss the players and coaches and the relationships,” said DeBerry, who retired in December 2006. “Just not all the other stuff.”

DeBerry was part of the Class of 2008 inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday night, joining former Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix, Denver radio and television announcing icon Starr Yelland, Olympic champion runner Frank Shorter, college coach Bill Noxon and pro golfer Dow Finsterwald.

The 69-year-old still can’t believe he’s being honored.

“I’m truly in awe and humbled to go in with such a distinguished class,” DeBerry said. “It’s mind-boggling. I’m just truly honored.”

Lacroix, the architect behind the Colorado Avalanche winning two Stanley Cups in his 11-year stint as general manager, felt the same way as DeBerry.

“It’s really amazing,” Lacroix said. “A lot of things have gone through my head since I got the phone call from the hall of fame. I was surrounded by good people and good players for all these years, and a community that embraced us in a unique way.”

DeBerry took over the Air Force football program in 1984 and in 23 seasons, guided the Falcons to three conference titles and 12 bowl appearances.

Although DeBerry was out of coaching last fall, he couldn’t help but pay attention to the Falcons. He watched every game either in person or on television, and was impressed with the job his replacement, Troy Calhoun, did in his first season in charge.

“I was very proud of that team,” said DeBerry, who served as the Falcons’ honorary captain at the Armed Forces Bowl in a 42-36 loss to California on New Year’s Eve. “I knew we left a lot of talented young men, who had the potential for a good year. It was just the right time for me (to retire).”

With no football to interfere, DeBerry finds himself doing a lot of traveling with his wife, LuAnn. The couple has a home in Charleston, South Carolina, and frequently visit their five grandkids in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

His shoes of choice these days? Crocs. He frequently walks on the beaches in South Carolina in them with his wife of nearly 43 years.

“I love retirement,” DeBerry said. “I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.”

DeBerry has also been doing a lot of fundraising for his foundation, which helps provide support to single-parent families. It’s a cause dear to him since he was raised primarily by his mother – as well as his grandparents – after his military father left the family at an early age.

“We’ve helped a lot of kids,” DeBerry said. “We’re trying to help kids have life-changing experiences.”

DeBerry, the national coach of the year in 1985, can’t pick a favorite memory or a game that sticks out in his mind. Instead, he just remembers the relationships.

“I got to know some wonderful people,” DeBerry said. “That’s why it’s not me marching into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame – there will be a lot of us marching in arm in arm. You don’t do anything by yourself in life. I’ve been blessed with wonderful coaches and players. I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Air Force.”

In former Colorado Buffaloes coach Bill McCartney’s opinion, DeBerry’s loyalty to the academy was an enviable trait.

“He could’ve gotten any number of higher paying, more higher profile jobs, but he truly loved the academy and loved the cadets,” McCartney said at the banquet. “He was academy through and through. That’s what we want from all our coaches.”

Over the summer, DeBerry sat down and wrote each one of his players a thank-you note, just to let them know how much they meant to him.

He said he’s heard back from quite a few.

“I just wanted them to know how much their commitment to Falcon football meant to me,” DeBerry said. “My players all meant a lot to me.”

DeBerry is currently writing a book on the positive impact that leaders can have on the lives of youngsters.

He’s hoping that’s been his legacy at the academy.

“I wanted to make an impact,” DeBerry said. “That’s my reason for being in coaching, not because of winning football games.”

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