Coming Back Home: Garrett Kinsey


Garrett Kinsey played football for Berry College before coming back home to Habersham, and Piedmont University PHOTO//Amy Decker Photography

Andrew Klein, Contributing Writer

Demorest, Georgia, was the last place Garrett Kinsey thought he would live after college, especially after growing up there for 18 years of his life.

“Habersham was all I ever knew until I went off to college,” said Kinsey in a sit-down interview. “I loved growing up here, the people, small-town culture, and everyone knowing everyone. It was something I had been used to since I was a little kid, and I did not know any other way of living.”

Kinsey grew up a native of Habersham County and lived right here in Demorest. He lived with his mom and older brother, Mason Kinsey, until Mason departed for college in August 2015.

“Mason is the person I always looked up to. It was him and I against the world, but I would not be the person I am today or have the accomplishments I did without Mason,” Kinsey said.

Two years after Mason departed for Berry College, Garrett trailed right behind him, and he would also be going there to chase a dream of playing collegiate football. Garrett majored in human and athletic performance with a minor in economics. He also would become a two-time SAA All-Conference player at Berry and debate returning for his graduate year since COVID-19 cut one of his four playing seasons. He would not just be left with a simple decision to return to Berry College for his fifth year and play football; he was instead faced with a more complex situation back home.

Kinsey received a phone call in the midst of trying to finish a tough week of finals before finishing his final semester at Berry. His mother had already been going through a few medical problems but nothing too serious.

“My mom had called me after weeks and weeks of trying to figure out why she was so sick, and it eventually led to serious spinal problems that ended up putting her in a wheelchair for five months,” Kinsey said.

“It was a really tough time for the entire family. Our grandmother, who was the main one spending time and taking care of my mom, died only seven months before she was put into a wheelchair, so it was definitely a hard transition.” Mason Kinsey said.

Mason was entering his second year of playing professional football with the Tennessee Titans after signing as an undrafted free agent upon graduating from Berry College. Garrett took it upon himself to return to Demorest and forgo his fifth-year season of football at Berry. A noble decision because it was not just football he was giving up but also his dream of opening his own business.

Kinsey and his roommate Michael, who played football at Berry, planned to open a private training facility for athletes and adults. Their dream would be put on hold for the time being as Kinsey returned to Demorest, his hometown, to take care of his mother full-time. He also enrolled at Piedmont University to earn his master’s in human and health performance. He would also be reunited with former Berry football teammate John Delf-Montgomery, the head strength and conditioning coach at Piedmont University.

“Coming back to Demorest was never the plan I had picked out for my life. Once I graduated high school, I never pictured myself coming back to this place unless it was to see my family. I just wanted to experience more in my life, and I thought Habersham had given me all it could,” Kinsey says.

Kinsey lived in his mother’s attic for three months, where the temperature got up to 85 degrees on most summer days. This led to moving into his dad’s house for four months while he was still caring for his mother full-time and taking summer classes at Piedmont. He cared for his mother for a full seven months before she was admitted to Shepherd Spinal Clinic, where she would be put into a clinical research group to determine her diagnosis.

Kinsey’s mother would never receive a diagnosis, but through rehab and the help of Shepherd Spinal Clinic, she went from a wheelchair to a walker, and now today, she walks with no assistance. Kinsey’s faith and admirable gesture of deciding to move back to Demorest to take care of his mom did not take place by accident in his eyes.

“I truly do think it was God that brought me back to Demorest because it for sure was not how I saw my future panning out after graduating from Berry,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey graduates this summer from the master’s program at Piedmont University and has already secured a lease right here in Demorest to open up his own personal training facility. He will be looking to make an impact on athletes all around the Northeast Georgia area.

“Without the experiences and lessons learned through youth, high school, and college sports, I would not be the person I am today. I want to be able to make a difference in athletes’ careers and more importantly their lives,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey, using his passion and knowledge to improve athletes, specifically in Habersham, exemplifies the lessons people take away from sports. It is not always about the scoreboard but what the individual player does after those positive or negative experiences learned on the field.