Jon Demps will leave Pensacola and the warm, loving home that Millicent and Willie Demps have provided to spend the next four years earning a college degree and playing linebacker for Coach Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators. Millicent has high expectations for Jon, but she'll be the first to tell you she has high expectations for all her kids. Daughter Angela is a Florida A&M graduate who is a lieutenant in the US Navy. Son Willie Jr. is a linebacker who is trying to come back from a debilitating injury to revive his football career at LSU. All three children have been nurtured in a Christian environment where education comes first, so sending one more child off to get an education isn't a problem for Millicent. This is a day for which she's been prepared for years.
When Jon signed his national letter of intent on February 2, 2005 to attend the University of Florida, the Gators won a battle of two football powerhouses. Florida won that day over Florida State but long before that February day, Millicent Demps had already won the big battle.
Millicent and Willie Demps Sr. own and operate a private school in Pensacola. The S.L. Jones Christian Academy is a proud family business that they will most likely pass on to their children when they finally decide to retire. This private school for more than 100 children flourishes due to the nourishment of loving parents and adults. Millicent tries to prepare the children at her school for the future the same way she prepared her own kids to expect and seek success.
Angela Demps was not only a fine student at Washington High School, but she was a member of Washington's 1994 state championship basketball team. She graduated FAMU and entered the Navy where she is forging a fine career as an officer serving the country.
"We are so very proud of her," Millicent said, "She has always been a self-starter and she has made us proud. She is a single young lady that has carried herself in a way that is marvelous. She has recently been given a chance to be a lead singer on a CD that she is making with the church choir. She is talented and gifted from God."
Willie Demps Jr. signed a scholarship to play linebacker for LSU in 2002. He is currently on a medical hardship scholarship and trying to get healthy to play again. For Willie Jr., football may be in the past, but he still has a bright future. Millicent has no uneasiness about that future. As with Angela, Millicent found it easy to let Willie go into the world on his own after high school.
"Not so tough," she said about him leaving out of the house three years ago. "Willie has always been a level headed kid. He has always made wise choices and good decisions. We felt good about him going off to LSU and felt good about Coach (Will) Muschamp and the head coach after we talked to them. Willie was and is a great kid. I am from Louisiana and I graduated from Southern University. That is really home for me and my family."
Family and Christian values are at the heart of the Demps family. That's where they find their strength and that's what draws them closer together. That sense of family is one of the reasons both boys are looking to be a part of the S.L. Jones Christian Academy once they have completed their college educations.
"He (Willie Jr.) is getting his degree in sports communication or something close to that," Millicent said. "I know he will be in business and marketing. I told Willie, hopefully, when he graduates … in between getting a permanent job … I asked him to come back and coach our kids in the athletic department for a little bit. He is really seriously thinking about that."
Part of a mother's love and understanding is being able to set her children free into the world knowing that they will come back. She's had a hand in all their tough decisions yet at the same time, she has raised them to think independently and to dream big dreams. For Jon, the big dream is to get a degree in business at Florida and once his football playing days have ended, return to Pensacola and the school that his parents run so successfully.
"Now Jon was a handful," Millicent said about his younger days. "He is the baby and spoiled. His daddy spoiled him, it was all daddy. His daddy did it, and he will tell you that. Jonathan has always had a (happy) personality. He has always been one that loves people and is a people person. He has always had his own personality …he's Jon Jon. He is a good kid."
There is a playful side to her 6-4, 230-pound high school senior and it is that playful side that Millicent and Willie Sr. have had to keep under control. They never wanted to take all the playfulness out of his personality, but they did want him to mature so that he would know when to play and when to focus on what is important.
"He thinks we are hard on him and we had to be hard on him to keep him focused," she explained. "He loves to play. He plays more than Willie and has grown up to be a very mature young man. When he made up his mind to start doing well in school, he buckled down and started doing that. We are very proud of him."
The recruiting battle for Jon Demps has been well documented. There was a moment when it appeared he would be going to Florida State but in the end, he signed at UF, which is where Millicent wanted him to go. She points out, however, that while she made Jon focus in on his priorities, the final decision was indeed his and not hers.
"He made his own decisions regarding that," she said. "He said, 'Mom, this is what my goal is.' And so that is what he went for."
The final decision to be a Gator ended a grueling last minute ordeal but once Coach Urban Meyer had what he calls the "jewel" of his recruiting class, it was a time for the family to celebrate, and no one was happier than Millicent Demps.
"We were just happy that Jonathan was so blessed to have colleges interested in him," she said glowing about his athletic ability. "What we did was really let him have the freedom to process things in his own mind. He went through the complete process and did not let us interfere with it. He had five choices and wanted to do all the trips. There were times when I told him he visited enough and to get it over with. He wanted to take all the trips so he did. We backed off and let him go through the process.
"Willie was different because he was focused on where he wanted to go, even though his choice of LSU was the last school to offer. Jon Jon, he had so many dream schools after him, it really was a hard choice. All those schools were good schools. I put my two cents in when he would listen but he looked at all the pros and cons. He knows himself and he knows what it takes of himself academically. (In the end) when I think he was being pressured, that is when I helped him to focus on what was important. I was praying that he would make the right choice. We always prayed that God would lead him to make the right choice and he always prayed that. We trusted that was what he did and we are happy with what he did and the choice he made."
He will be gone from the nest, but not that far. Jon will be a half day drive from Pensacola and mom and dad won't be shy about checking in on their "littlest" boy. They just aren't done watching him progress on or off the field.
"We will be busy on the road to Gainesville," she said. "We will be doing a lot of traveling. We will be there as much as possible."
The last of her children will be leaving the home soon but Millicent with all the hard work that goes into her school hasn't had much time to think about it, or maybe hasn't wanted to think about it.
"I don't know, I really don't know what it is going to be like," she said. "I will let you know next year. I came home today and had eight kids running around. I really haven't had the chance to think about it. Our life is so full. We don't have the luxury of sitting around because we are constantly doing this or that. We have a hundred kids at our school that we treat like our own kids. My husband being a pastor, we have kids always around us."
And so goes the life of a natural born mother.
For Jon, the things he takes with him wherever he goes are the lessons learned from a mom who has always known when to push and when to let him choose on his own. She has inspired her son to dream big dreams and to feel perfectly capable of big accomplishments.
"I remember, back when I was younger, her getting on me about my study habits and stuff," Jon said. "She just instilled in me how to do better on my grades. It is something that really helped me in the long run."
Football wasn't even on the agenda early for Mrs. Demps or for Jon. Jon had enough things on his plate with his grades and the other sports he was into. Millicent wasn't very keen on him adding more to an already too busy schedule.
"Oh yeah, she didn't really want me to play (early on)," he said. "She thought I had too many things going on. I was playing basketball, baseball, and football and my schoolwork was really slacking. She didn't want to play all three at the same time."
She relented and Jon worked through his troubles in the classroom and started to really apply himself in everything he tried to do. This meant growing into a big time specimen and one that would be highly recruited to play football at the collegiate level. This meant coaches and players from schools all around the country pulling would be tugging on him trying to get him to sign with their school. The pressure was great and Jon was going to need her attention.
"She was a real big part of my final decision," Jon said. "She told me to think about it and it was a life long decision. She told me to think about two years from now and fifteen years from now. The way I saw it, the best decision was Florida."
While Jon was pondering his choice, mom knew in her heart where her baby should go, but she bit her lip until the final decision was made.
"She said she had a dream about me going to Florida and not Florida State, but she didn't even tell me until after I made up my mind," he said.
Whenever life brings a question to Jon, there is one person he knows to look for; one person that has been there for him every time; one person that will continue to be there for him.
"I owe her everything," he said of mom. "She is the (most influential) person in my life and I think I can go to her anytime and ask for guidance in situations. She is always that one person in my life that helped me keep my mind on my goals and what I needed to get through."
If there is one part of Millicent Demps that is foremost in whatever Jon does, it is finishing what he starts and giving his best no matter how simple or how difficult the task.
"She is a woman that when you say you are going to do something, she is going to hold you to it," he said. "She expects you to do the best you can."
Now that he's about to embark on his first big journey in life that is away from the nurturing home in Pensacola, Demps has one goal that supercedes all others. He's made a promise to his mom and no matter what this is one he has to keep.
"I want to get my degree," he said.
He has to keep that promise because Millicent Demps has been preparing for his college graduation day for years. It's the final part of her three-fold plan --- a college degree for each of her three children.
When Jon gets his diploma from the University of Florida, it will be the greatest Mother's Day gift ever for Millicent Demps. Jon will be happy because he kept his promise to his mom. Millicent will be happy because that diploma means her baby is ready to take the next step in life.
There are a lot of moms out there like Millicent Demps. You've given your best for your children, preparing them to go out in the world so they can have a successful life, knowing that one day those kids will come back to take care of you. To all of you mothers who have given so much, Gator Country says Happy Mothers Day!!!