DeBerry joins the UVA Wise staff after serving a year as defensive coordinator at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio.
He said he’s known Cavaliers coach Dane Damron for about a decade.
“I had a really good year at Ohio Dominican and I learned a lot about football,” DeBerry said. “Coach Damron’s vision is closer to my vision. I like the things that he represents for being the leader of the program and the direction that he wants to take these kids post-football.
“I think my path the good Lord has me on is here,” DeBerry added.
DeBerry replaces Chris Cunningham, who left UVA Wise to accept a position as special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Murray State.
Prior to Ohio Dominican, DeBerry spent two years as the co-special teams coordinator and safeties coach at Western Kentucky.
DeBerry coached special teams, safeties and tight ends at Indiana State from 2013-16, a stint that included a postseason trip in 2014.
DeBerry, a Franklin, Kentucky, native, played football at Western Kentucky before graduating in 2005. A defensive back and linebacker for the Hilltoppers, he was a member of the 2002 national championship team and helped the program to a 49-16 record during his career.
DeBerry lives in Ohio with his wife and three children but plans to move to Wise next month. He said he has been communicating with coaches and players electronically during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re getting some meetings in. I’m learning more about Zoom than I really wanted to,” DeBerry said. “This is something where I can’t call up my friends and ask how do you handle this because this is something new that we’re all going through together.”
His communications with the UVA Wise defensive staff have been good, DeBerry said.
“I’m impressed with the work this staff has been doing,” he said. “I’m really excited about what guys are going to do.”
With spring practice canceled because of the pandemic, DeBerry knows he will have to hit the ground running with implementing his defense.
“We’re going to have to teach as much as we can, but I’m not sure how much time we’re going to have,” DeBerry said.
Having less time than usual could work into DeBerry’s philosophy.
“I love mistakes because it allows me to be a teacher and allows me to be a coach and that’s what I love to do,” he said.
DeBerry said he also hopes to be more than just a coach to his players.
“I think we just have to make sure we’re teaching these kids to do right. To do what’s the right thing to do. To be kind and to be loving and to be respectful. Those are the rules,” he said. “I never want to replace somebody in their life, but I want to be someone that they remember. I just want them to know in their heart that I care about them. My family cares and we’re there for them.”
DeBerry wants to gift a multifaceted lesson to his student-athletes during their time with him. One aspect of that lesson is one he has grown to embrace, and a lesson he believes football easily lends itself to teaching.
“Life is not fair, and it has its ups and downs, and it’s a roller coaster, and what you have to do as a man is that you have to be ready to face all those things that happen, good or bad, positive or negative,” he said.
UVA Wise is scheduled to open its second season in the South Atlantic Conference with three straight road games. The Cavs go to Chowan on Sept. 5, followed by their first SAC game of the season, at Mars Hill on Sept. 12, before visiting nonconference foe Presbyterian on Sept. 19.
UVA Wise’s first home game is scheduled for Sept. 26 against Carson-Newman.