During Holy Week 2019, St. Louis Catholic students, faculty and staff gathered in the Commons to hear one man’s unbelievable story and powerful life lessons.

Damon West seemingly had every opportunity in front of him in 1996, receiving a scholarship to play Division I football for the University of North Texas with a strong family support system rooted in faith back home in Port Arthur, Texas.  But what lay beneath the surface was the painful early stages of a true disease.  West had endured childhood sexual abuse by a babysitter at the age of nine, and by the age of 12, he escalated from drinking and smoking to using marijuana.  When his football career prematurely ended due to injury, he lost all direction, and in 2008 West eventually found himself sentenced to 65 years in prison for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity to feed his insatiable methamphetamine habit.

However, after serving seven years, West was placed on parole in November 2015 and emerged a better man spiritually, emotionally and physically.  Now he travels the country sharing his inspirational story, including a previous visit to St. Louis Catholic in 2016.  Read more of West’s story here.

His call to action for today’s St. Louis Catholic students was to be “coffee beans” and change the world in positive ways through servant leadership and humility.  West shared four spiritual principles – 1) unselfishness, 2) honesty, 3) purity, and 4) love, and encouraged the students to think about what they are feeding themselves daily, not just physically, but spiritually and mentally as well.

“Never put limits on yourself,” West said, as he spread a message of hope and perseverance even when facing extreme odds like his.  “You must face your fears.  Your past does not define you.”

Students asked a variety of questions after West’s speech, including what was the first thing he did when he was released from prison.  The answer?  Order a No. 2 meal from Whataburger, followed of course by beginning his 12-Step Recovery Group.

West just published a book, “The Change Agent: How a Former College QB Sentenced to Life in Prison Transformed His World” about his life coming full circle.