From star athlete, to inmate, to motivational speaker: Damon West’s story

Published: May. 21, 2021 at 2:52 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Damon West -- once the starting quarterback at the University of North Texas -- suffered a career-ending injury at age 20.

After graduation, he trained to be a stockbroker. He had a promising future.

But then, he tried meth. Just one time and he was hooked. And his life as a promising young man in society came crashing down.

The former college football quarterback and best-selling author visited Columbia to speak to different groups -- motivating, encouraging, and showing why he’s a changed man.

His message to inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections was one of redemption and hope.

“Sometimes taking a stand to do the right thing means you’re going to stand alone,” West said.

Before Damon ended up behind bars in 2008, he and others had committed a string of burglaries to support their drug habit. He was the mastermind behind the organized crime. Eventually, police tracked him down at an apartment.

”This cop in full swat riot gear, he has his boot on my chest and the barrel of an assault rifle is digging in my eye socket and his finger is on that trigger, y’all. And he’s yelling, ‘Don’t move, don’t move,’” West described.

He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 65 years.

“Every one of you men in orange wants to be forgiven for the things you’ve done, don’t you,” he told inmates. “I’m a human being and when I was wearing your jumpsuit I just wanted people to accept me and to be able to belong. That’s what human beings want at the core - to belong and be loved.”

Damon ended up being paroled after spending a little more than seven years in prison. When he left, he emerged as a changed man after a life-changing conversation with a seasoned inmate about being a “coffee bean” -- being the kind of person who positively affects those around him, bringing flavor and goodness to others, even if still in prison.

”And the main thing about this is that you can’t deny what you can see,” he said. “Here is a person that’s been in the same situation they’re in and turned it around completely. And that’s one of the biggest things there is.”

Director Bryan Stirling said West’s illustration of a coffee bean in water changing its environment will resonate with the people in the correctional facilities.

“I want them to be a change-agent, not only inside the facility but when they go back out,” Stirling said. “I want them to be a change-agent in their communities and in their society.”

In addition to motivational speaking, West is a best-selling author. His first book is an autobiography, “The Change Agent: How a Former College QB Sentenced to Life in Prison Transformed His World.”

He also co-wrote with Jon Gordon “The Coffee Bean: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change.”

West is on parole until 2073. He said he’s just glad he gets to go all around the nation reminding people your past does not define you.

He has remained sober and continues to go to AA meetings weekly.

In addition to inmates, West speaks regularly to college and high school students.

Notice a spelling or grammar error in this article? Click or tap here to report it. Please include the article's headline.

Copyright 2021 WIS. All rights reserved.