Bumpers arrives at Windermere High School after a three-season stint at South Walton High School.
The old saying of, “All good things come to those who wait,” is something Derrick Bumpers understands well.
Since his first year in coaching back in 2008, Bumpers has traveled the path of high school coaches before him — serving a variety of roles at different schools and building up his resume to prepare him for the end goal of becoming a head coach.
Now, in 2020, Bumpers’ patience has paid of in full. The Alabama native recently was named the new head coach of the Windermere High School football program.
“I’m super excited — it’s something that I’ve been envisioning and pursuing for a while now,” Bumpers said. “It’s been more than a blessing to receive this opportunity — it’s beyond what I expected.”
The news comes a few months after former Wolverines head coach — and current assistant athletic director — Fred Priest retired from coaching back in November.
A lot went into Bumpers’ decision on making the move from South Walton High School, where he served as a multi-role assistant coach for three seasons. A big factor was how new the Windermere program is.
The upcoming 2020 season will be the fourth year of Wolverines football, and over the last three seasons, the program has won only three games — the Wolverines went 0-10 in their first season. That said, this felt like a chance to go into a program and really make a difference, Bumpers said.
“I feel like when I looked at the opportunity it was a good fit, because a lot of the foundation had really just been established — I think Coach Priest tried to do what he could do with the youth league and with the kids, and I think there is an opportunity to build on that,” Bumpers said. “It felt like a fresh challenge that I actually wanted to pursue. I wanted to be in a position where I could see myself grow and actually build something.”
AN UNDERDOG STORY
If anyone knows what it’s like to hit hard times and be the underdog, it’s Bumpers.
After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with his degree in health promotion/fitness leadership, Bumpers became a personal trainer and started his own business. Then, the economy tanked.
Personal training is a luxury, and the economic recession hit Bumpers hard.
“Things really went downhill for me,” Bumpers said. “I lost my business, house and went through some financial crises and it was just a bad time. Once I realized, ‘Hey I can actually learn from this,’ I pulled myself up back together by the bootstraps and started going out and exercising at the local high school while I was in Atlanta.”
At that time, Bumpers felt like a failure, but there was something positive in store for him, he said.
He got to know a few of the athletes at the school — they were the only ones who understood him, he said. He would help them with weights and teach them what he knew.
“I’m super excited — it’s something that I’ve been envisioning and pursuing for a while now. It’s been more than a blessing to receive this opportunity — it’s beyond what I expected.”
— Derrick Bumpers
“They held me accountable and gave me new life,” he said. “I knew my purpose had changed, and I got my first job as a substitute teacher and in that position I was able to impact a lot of kids. That was a gift I didn’t know I had — everywhere I’d go, kids would gravitate to me.”
With a new purpose, Bumpers decided to go into coaching. In 2008, he took on a “jack of all trades” role at Tri-Cities High School in Georgia, where he was a defensive-line coach and strength and conditioning coach.
From there, Bumpers found his calling as he jumped from jobs at Greenville High School (Georgia), Foley High School (Alabama) and Northview High School (Alabama) before landing at South Walton High School up in the Panhandle. There, he served as an assistant head coach, assistant athletic director, co-defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach for his three years at the school.
The years he’s put into the sport are a testament to what a simple game can do for a person. Regardless of wins and losses, football is about learning to overcome obstacles — whether that’s on the field or in life.
“All of those things that I’ve learned — the failures, the successes, the brotherhood, the determination, the adversity of it — I’ve been able to put that into a mixing bowl and serve it up to young people,” Bumpers said. “At some point you’re going to face life, and when you do, you can look at what you went through to get to where you are (now).”