Seth Grooms is Davie

Published 8:52 am Thursday, August 10, 2017

If you follow Davie sports, you know who he is. You probably know who he is if you don’t follow Davie sports. He’s been known as Davie’s No. 1 Fan for years. He’s never suited up for a game for the War Eagles, but he’s War Eagle through and through.

He needs no introduction because he’s everybody’s friend, has been a fixture on the football sidelines since 1996. Among the new members in the Davie High Athletic Hall of Fame is Seth Grooms, who makes everyone he meets feel like they’re the most important person on Earth. In the eyes of Seth, Davie athletes aren’t just good at what they do, they’re the best in the world.

“Seth lives and breathes Davie County football,” Davie head coach Tim Devericks said. “Anyone who has strapped on the DC helmet (since the mid-1990s) knows about Seth, has experienced Seth, and has probably taken some energy from Seth and used it on the field.”

“Seth is the biggest Davie County supporter and fan ever. Ever. I mean ever,” said Devore Holman, who coached football at Davie for 20-plus years and is now the new head coach at West Caldwell. “He’s the heart and soul of Davie football.”

“When I first got there, it was like he had known me for 10 years already,” said Doug Illing, who guided Davie football from 1998-2012 and left as the winningest coach in school history with 127 wins. “He welcomed me in.”

Grooms, who graduated from Davie in 2002, Roger Pierce (1964), Bill Evans (1962), Ronnie Foster (1966) and Debbie Evans (1990) will be enshrined in the HOF on Sept. 22.

On Aug. 3, 1981, Grooms was born with Downs Syndrome. He turned 36 last week. Seth saw his first Davie football games when brother Heath was a sophomore in 1994. He started watching games from the sidelines when Heath was a senior in 1996, when Benjie Brown was head coach.

“He started actually following it Heath’s senior season,” mother Nancy Grooms said. “That’s when coach Holman asked if Seth would like to be a manager. And he’s been going ever since as a faithful person.”

Seemingly overnight, Seth endeared himself to the community with his exuberance and enthusiasm, his marvelous laugh, his electric personality. As the years roll on, players and coaches come and go, but Seth is always there. Soon enough, he became synonymous with Davie football, the two going together like barbecue and sweet tea.

Life is never dull when Seth is around. He shows up way before kickoff every Friday night, home and away, and he brings energy the moment he walks on the field for warmups. He joins the team in the locker room before the game. He leads the team onto the field as the band plays the fight song.

“The best thing about Seth is he brings energy to everybody,” Devericks said. “We often talk to our guys about if we had as much energy as Seth does, no one could stop us.”

“On game nights, he leads Davie across the bleachers and he is so fired up,” Holman said. “He’s the backbone of Davie County football.”

In the pregame locker room, Seth listens closely to what the coaches are preaching and then he chimes in.

“As soon as he gets on campus, he’s walking through the hallway and he’s finding a position meeting,” Devericks said. “He wants to get in that position meeting. There’s even been times he’s taken over my position meeting and said: ‘Hey, I want you to stand up and you to stand up and this is what we’re going to do.’ He’ll walk them through what he wants done on the field. When we come in after getting warmed up, we give the guys a few minutes of down time to collect their thoughts and get ready to go, and Seth is leading them through chants and getting them absolutely fired up.”

One summer, Seth walked up to Illing and handed him a notebook full of plays. It became a tradition. When Holman became head coach, Seth made him a playbook. Now Devericks gets a playbook.

“I miss the ol’ playbook I used to get,” said Illing, who is beginning his fifth year at Socastee High (S.C.). “Every July he’d have a notebook with about a hundred plays written in there, and every one of them was named something different. Every one of them had a fancy name to it. It was incredible the amount of time and thought he put into something like that. It showed you how proud he was to be a Davie War Eagle.”

One moment during a practice in the late 1990s or early 2000s evokes a tear and a lumpy throat. Seth suited up for practice. The quarterback handed him the ball. He followed his blockers. He ran wild, all the way to the end zone.

“(Former Davie assistant coach) Bill Oakley had talked about it,” Holman said. “We came out to practice one day and Bill had Seth dressed in a full uniform. We were in an offensive play and Seth was our running back. Everybody blocked and Seth ran through there and scored a touchdown. And I’ll never forget the look and the smile on his face. It was priceless.”

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Illing said. “He was grinning from ear to ear, and boy he was fast. The kids loved it and that boy ate every bit of it up. After that moment, he was going to dress Friday night. We almost had to tie his hands behind his back to keep him from dressing out on Friday night.”

Seth has enjoyed incredible success as an athlete in Special Olympics. He started competing at age 8. There’s nothing he can’t do. He competes in golf and cheerleading these days. He has also competed in gymnastics, snow skiing, bowling, weight lifting and basketball.

“We had to narrow down to a couple,” Nancy said. “He loves them all.”

Over the years, Seth has piled up 157 gold, silver and bronze medals.

“Seth is competitive,” Ed Robertson, Seth’s cousin, said. “If he gets into something, he’s going to try to win it.”

In the aftermath of Davie football games, Seth stands in the middle of the huddle beside the head coach. When the head coach finishes what he has to say, Seth speaks to the team. Even in defeat, Seth is relentlessly upbeat. Coaches and fans don’t have to be reminded how fortunate Davie County is to have had Seth in our midst all these years.

“No matter how serious we were or how upset we were at a loss, he was always able to bring a smile to our face and lighten the load a little bit,” Illing said. “It’s just a football game. We work hard to win and when we lose we hurt. But boy, he made us feel better. He took all of our hearts and made us realize and appreciate how fortunate we were and what Davie football really meant.”

Danny Correll said: “He has meant so much to that football program for so long. There’s been some pretty good athletes come through that school, but nobody deserved (being inducted) more than him.”

Amiee Barnette-Vetter summed up Seth’s bottomless love, limitless loyalty and unmatched passion for Davie athletes/teams.

“He actually cheered at William R. Davie when we were in elementary school and has been on the Davie Jets Special Olympics team for the last five years,” said Barnette-Vetter, who left the Davie faculty a few years ago to start her own business but remains a Davie cheerleading coach. “I coached the team for two years. Seth was one of the athletes I reached out to first because I knew he was strong, flexible and a performer. The Davie cheerleaders have volunteered on this team for the last five years, so he is very close with some of them. So on Friday nights I always get a hug and most of the time a kiss on the cheek, and he comes in to tell us when the boys are ready for the gym, followed by an inspirational word or two about the game. We love watching him from the sideline, and if I ever need to get someone’s attention I normally go to him.

“He is the reason I became a special ed teacher. I knew that I wanted to make it a priority for others to learn to accept all students because so many miss out because they don’t take the time to hang out with those who are perceived as different. My life would be totally different if I had never known Seth Grooms.”