November of 2015 was one of the most difficult times of his life, but today he’s figured out he can overcome anything with a positive attitude and the love of his family.
Devon Williams joined the UNM men’s basketball team during the 2012-13 season. He redshirted that season and only appeared in five games.
The following year, he started in 30 games. He scored in double figures on seven different occasions, had 48 offensive rebounds and led his team in blocks in six different games.
Things were looking up for him, but his world shook up at the beginning of his junior season.
During a game at New Mexico State, Williams found himself on the ground and suddenly lost the feeling in his body and the ability to move. At this point, the 6’8” forward said he had two things on his mind.
“One, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to walk again. And number two, all of the hard work, all the dedication, all the hours spent playing basketball...I just felt like it all went down the drain,” he said.
Shortly after the incident, Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column.
Williams wasn’t alone when he got the news. His family was there, and each member felt the emotional pain. Growing up, basketball was a family affair, as Williams’ parents and sisters were always there to support him whether it meant driving him to a fitness center late at night, preparing him food or just working out with him.
“It hit them just as hard as it hit me,” he said
But if there’s one thing that was always clear to Williams, it was that the entire family would get through it together, as they’ve done with every other setback in the past.
Growing up in Dallas, Williams said his life wasn’t always easy, but he never lacked love and support.
“When I was a kid, there were a couple of times when we didn’t have a solid home,” he said. “There would be times when we had to jump from apartment to apartment, and from school to school. Things were rough a couple of times, but we still have a real tight-knit family.”
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Today, the 23-year-old is making his family proud by having already received his bachelor’s degree in organizational communications, and is currently working on finishing his master’s in sports administration. If things go according to plan, this will be completed in December.
“I kind of learned to appreciate it after the injury; I might not be able to play, but they can’t take away my education,” he said.
He admitted that he had initially come to UNM mostly for basketball, not taking academics too much into account. Today, however, he understands the importance of it. Williams is currently conducting research with Zest for Excellence in Athletics and Learning, a mentorship program based in African American Student Services.
He might not be able to play college sports anymore, but he is not going to stay away from them. His dream job is to one day become an athletic director.
However, if things don’t work out in this area, he says his second choice would be to become a singer and dancer.
“People have told me, I don’t think so, but people have told me that I can’t sing,” he said. “But I feel like I’m a pretty good singer, more or less. That was my second option.”
Isabel Gonzalez is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She mainly covers men’s soccer and basketball. She can be reached at sports @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @cisabelg.