When Stephenson High School opened in 1996, brothers Demeche and Gerin Bembry made a name for themselves in both athletics and academics.
Twenty years later, the second generation of Bembrys—Deonta, 16, and Isaiah “King” Bembry, 15; Justin Birdsong,17, and Adrian Lane, 17—are living up to the Bembry legacy while creating their own legacy in the classrooms and on the football fields and tracks. And just as their father and uncle did, they’re doing it together.
The four have been inseparable since they were small children. Deonta and Isaiah, who were adopted by Demeche, developed a close bond with their cousins and it grew into a brotherhood.
“I use to go over to [Deonta and Isaiah’s] house every Saturday after the game,” Birdsong said. “We always felt more like brothers than cousins.”
Their bond grew stronger when all four began playing football with the Central DeKalb Jaguars youth football program at Wade Walker Park in Stone Mountain.
“Playing together was great because we knew each other’s weaknesses and strengths and it allowed us to play better on our team,” Lane said
“It was fun having somebody that you know playing alongside you,” Deonta said.
“It was fun because we had our uncles coaching us and a lot of the plays were kind of centered around us because we were fast,” Birdsong said.
The Bembry brothers and Birdsong also ran track with the Sapphire Track Club. Lane is participating in track and field for the first time with Stephenson. All four began attending the same school in middle school at Shiloh Middle School in Gwinnett County. When they got to Shiloh they said they drew a lot of attention from their classmates.
“Everybody wanted to know who we were connected to and how we were connected,” Lane said. “We drew a lot of attention too but it kind of put a little bit of fear in [the other students] because they didn’t want to get on the wrong side of us because it was all of us there.”
Although Isaiah is a grade behind his older cousins, he never felt alone when he got to Shiloh.
“I didn’t see them that much but me and [Justin’s] sister were in the same grade, so it was easier,” he said. “She would help me with my work.”
They see each other often now at Stephenson High School—in the hallways or classrooms, the football field and track field. Some of the teachers and coaches who taught Demeche and Gerin Bembry are now teaching and coaching the Bembry cousins. One of those coaches includes boys’ track and field head coach and assistant football coach Donnie Sellers. Sellers said the Bembry family has been longtime members of the Stephenson Jaguar family.
“Their grandfather has been a supporter since the program first began,” Sellers said. “They’ve been a Stephenson supporter even coming out of the recreation area, out of the parks. They’re all Jaguars, they love it and they’re just supportive, like always.”
Just as their father and uncle, the Bembry cousins excel in athletics and academics, Sellers said. They all have a grade point average above 3.0, and were big contributors on the football team.
Birdsong, a junior defensive back, finished fifth overall on the Jaguars defense with 80 total tackles and had seven pass breakups in the 2016 season. Deonta, who is also a junior and play defensive back, had 28 tackles and one fumble recovery. Lane, a junior defensive lineman, had 10 tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits.
Isaiah also played well defensively for the junior varsity team.
Although coaching the second generation of Bembrys makes him feel old, Sellers said it’s been a fun ride so far.
“One of the good things to know is that the family is really loyal, they’re committed to the community, they support us here and you couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” he said. “They’re Stephenson born, Stephenson bred, Stephenson for life.”
The boys said they don’t feel any pressure living up to their father’s and uncle’s legacy, but they do try to live up to the high expectations.
“Most of our teachers and most of our coaches talk about it and they expect a lot out of us but they don’t pressure us that much,” Lane said.
They all hope to follow each other to the same college if they receive offers from the same school.
“That’ll be a blessing,” Isaiah said.
“It’ll be weird if we’re all at different schools and all of our parents are driving everywhere to come see us play,” Lane said.
Whatever the future holds for the Bembry cousins, they all know that their family will be there to support them.
“Family will always be there for you no matter what,” Deonta said. “No matter what [we] go through family will be there for [us].”
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