Redemption: Former football star has new mission after years behind bars

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It's rare to get a second chance in life. For Damon West, his story of redemption is like no other.

He was a rising star out of Port Arthur who received a scholarship to play football at the University of North Texas.

An injury in a game versus Texas A&M ended West's playing career in 1996. He graduated from UNT, went to work for Congress and a presidential campaign. But while he was training to become a stockbroker in Dallas, he got hooked on methamphetamine.

"I smoked that drug one time and I was up for four days. It took no time for me to lose everything. I gave up my house, my car, my savings, my family, my tethering to God, everything," West said.

He and his "dope fiend" friends started stealing to get their fix.

"Eventually we started breaking into houses in the uptown neighborhood of Dallas where I was living at the time when I was a broker. I made a lot of victims," West said.

Dubbed the 'Uptown Burglar,' he was arrested in 2008 and convicted of organized crime. He was sentenced to life but paroled in about seven years.

"It's a God thing," he added.

Not only did he turn things around behind bars, he managed to get out and take on a new purpose to help others.

"I played college football at North Texas, so it's natural to be able to tell this story to college football players because there's not another story like this out there in America," West said.

Thanks to his AA sponsors, he's been going around the country and sharing his story with student athletes. His latest group was the Rice University Owls.

"As brilliant as these young men are at Rice, we could all make a bad decision. I want them to see the consequences that happened to Damon because of the life choices he made," explained head coach David Bailiff.

"It's something that lets you know that no matter what circumstances you come from, even if you're highest of highs or lowest of lows, that somebody could fall from the graces of where you're at," added senior linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee.

West wants everyone to understand character off the field matters, and that one choice can change their whole path -- whether it's good or bad.

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