The record, says its holder, needs never be broken.
Not because Damon West is ego-driven. Instead, West’s is a cautionary tale, if that’s a strong enough term.
“As far as I know, I’m the only D-I scholarship athlete, of any sport ever, to get a life sentence and get out and turn it around,” West told GN. “To get out and share, it has value. I want to talk to every athlete on a campus. We all play sports, and we all wanna win and set records.
“I never got a chance to do that on the field; we were everybody’s homecoming back then (in college). But I set one NCAA record off the field that I hope nobody in the room ever gets to touch.”
The rooms West populates these days are veritable Ritz-Carltons compared to his previous residence: a 6-by-9-foot cell. West was sent to prison for 65 years in 2009 after being convicted of leading a burglary ring in Dallas. The series of burglaries and home invasions – there were more than 50 break-ins and $1 million worth of thefts in 2007 and ’08 – led to him getting the nickname of the “Uptown Burglar.”
But West has been given a second chance, thanks to being paroled after he served fewer than 6½ years of his sentence. He is using his second chance to tell his incredible story.
West is a former high school football star in Beaumont, Texas. He then became the starting quarterback at North Texas. Then things began to go wrong.
In 1996, in the third game of the season, West suffered a separated shoulder in a loss to Texas A&M. Later, he suffered an Achilles injury and never played football again. Still, he graduated from North Texas, went to work for U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri), then began training to be a stock broker. But the alcohol and substance abuse he’d been hiding came forth.
“I started getting into substance abuse at a young age, started drinking at 10, I was molested (by a babysitter) at 9, and being in recovery now I know that’s what’s called an activating event,” West says. “Sneaking around and drinking out of dad’s beer in the fridge, drinking at friends’, smoking pot at age 12, just a bad belief system. … Big problems don’t start as big problems; they grow, manifest and snowball. My career ended and I had a fork in the road.
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