Coach Carrie Prewitt, Middleburg High School
Ever since seventh grade, Carrie Prewitt knew she wanted to coach girls volleyball. Mentors lit her passion for coaching and its power to build confidence, teamwork and character. Now in her 31st year teaching volleyball at Middleburg High School, Prewitt could not have imagined how coaching would change her life.
One day Ashely Brewer, a freshman team member who came from a dysfunctional family, reported that one of her parents had died of a drug overdose. Not long after, Ashley’s remaining parent also passed away due to drug-related causes.
Carrie Prewitt (second from left) and the teenagers she took in after their parents died, Gina (from left), Taylor and Ashley pose for a family portrait in front of the Middleburg home built for them by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Prewitt was heartbroken for Ashley and her two younger sisters. Their grandparents couldn’t care for them, and Prewitt didn’t want them going to separate foster homes. So, in 2009 she adopted them.
“I can look back on that now and realize that God had a plan that was bigger than I was,” Prewitt says.
For Prewitt, the team has always been her family. Single, strong and independent, until the adoption, she had always lived by herself. She has dedicated her life to being a role model, for over three decades she has shared that strength with the girls she mentors. With her guidance, they become adept at smoothing conflicts, crafting compromises and setting and achieving goals.
Middleburg’s Hannah Schneider (9) spikes the ball over a block by Nease’s Lorea Jackson (10) during high school volleyball regional championship action at Middleburg High School.
When the girls step onto the volleyball court, “they dissolve as an individual and evolve as a team,” Prewitt says. “Sometimes, they have to dig deep for motivation and use defeat as a stepping stone. They have to learn that mental toughness that lets them persevere through adversity.”
Becoming a mother of three brought Prewitt a new set of challenges. Her mobile home wasn’t able to accommodate the new family. “I had to learn how to ask for help,” she says. “It was something that was really hard for me.” Friends and neighbors nominated the family for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Their segment aired on Mother’s Day, 2011.
“I have just an enormous feeling of gratitude every day,” Prewitt says. “It was the community that came out and built this house. They pulled all-nighters and missed work. It’s overwhelming the sacrifices other people made to bring this to us.”
Coach Bobby Ramsay, Yulee High School
Becoming a high school football coach was never part of Bobby Ramsay’s dream. The Yulee High School’s head coach, who mentored 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, had always assumed he would go to graduate school, like his father.
“I was like no way,” he recalled, noting many of his college friends and football teammates were on the coaching track. “I thought I was too cool for it.”
Then Ramsay was invited to coach during his senior year at McMurry University in Texas.“I took to it right away,” Ramsay says. “I realized that I loved being on the field. It reminded me of why I like being part of a group, part of a team.”
Yulee High School running back Derrick Henry eludes Derrick Johnson during the first quarter of the game against Andrew Jackson High School. Henry had 170 rushing yards in the first quarter of the game and passed Emmitt Smith to become the second leading rusher in Florida high school football history.
Ever since, things have fallen into place. During his first year coaching football at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, the team won the state title. Later, while taking sports management graduate courses at Trinity University, he coached a team that went all the way to the national championship.
Then came Derrick Henry. Soon after Ramsay was hired as the Yulee Hornet’s head football coach in 2008, (the youngest head coach in North Florida), he spotted Henry towering over the other football players. Henry had tons of natural talent, but didn’t take his athletic gifts for granted, Ramsay says. Henry worked out hard in the gym and on the field, earning the national high school football record for total rushing yards.
“Right off the bat Henry knew he belonged,” Ramsay says. “He didn’t make the mental mistakes that young players make.”
His presence also energized the team.
“He gave us a shot,” Ramsay says. “He gave our kids confidence. You could feel the energy on the sidelines.” As Henry’s star continued to rise, Ramsay grew as a coach, improving strategies, program management and ways to handle players. “It opened a lot of doors to learn about the profession and ways to do things better,” Ramsay says.
Today, Ramsay chuckles at the thought that he nearly missed his calling.
“I think football is the greatest game there is,” he says. “The memories you create here will carry you through the good times and the struggles. You look back, and you’re so glad you had those experiences.”
Yulee High School head football coach Bobby Ramsay (right) finishes a prayer in the locker room as running back Derrick Henry (left background) gets up with his teammates before their playoff game against East Gadsden Friday night, November 23, 2012 in Yulee, Florida.