slee | Posted: 16 Dec 2014 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

O-Lineman De’Ondre Wesley: football opened doors

main image

This story was originally published in the BYU-UNLV game program on November 15, 2014

While most college football players have been playing football for majority of their lives, De’Ondre Wesley only started his senior year in high school.

“Before, I just played for fun with friends, but that was pretty much it,” Wesley said.

Baseball was his previous sport before he decided to tryout for football, and it all came naturally for Wesley. His mother, Deonne Wesley, realized his athleticism when he was 10 years old.

“He began playing baseball, and in less than a years’ time, he was a force to be reckoned with,” Deonne said. “He went from maybe playing second string to starter and could play any position.”

As he entered his last year in high school, Wesley decided to tryout for the football team because all his friends were trying out.

“Once I realized I could be really good at it, I just stuck with it and ended up here at BYU,” he said.

Football has paved the way for Wesley and considers it nothing short of a huge blessing. It has led to success and has allowed him to reach goals he has always dreamed of.

The only year Wesley played football in high school, his team was conference champions and went undefeated. The night they beat Heritage High School, their toughest competition, remains Wesley’s favorite football memory.

However, Wesley’s life-changing experienced happened in his sophomore year at Diablo Valley College. He started to believe he had talent and potential to go beyond college football.

Getting recruited from junior college confirmed he was not an average football player. Colleges such as Arizona State, Utah and Oregon State also recruited Wesley.

“Knowing that there were coaches that saw a lot of potential in me was definitely eye-opening and helped me know that I can go out and be one of the best players in the nation,” Wesley said. “It’s kind of a dream come true at the end of the day.”

Football has opened a lot of doors for Wesley. With this opportunity, Wesley is able to get his name out, go to college, get a degree and make something of himself.

“It opened a lot of ways for me to be successful in life,” Wesley said. “I pray to God everyday that He keeps me with it and keeps it a part of me.”

Though Wesley’s initial reason for coming to BYU was because of the guarantee to play right away, his journey here has affected more than just his football life.

“Coach [Garett] Tujague was a big influence on me coming here,” Wesley said. “I felt like we connected really well on my visit here and he was more of a father figure to me more than any other coach I visited at other colleges.”

The success of Wesley seems like it came easy from the outside perspective, but just like many others, Wesley had his own set of trials to go through.

One of the hardest challenges Wesley is continuing to overcome is growing up without a father in his life. His mother played both roles, but seeing his other friends that had fathers was hard to deal with at times. Regardless, that did not stop Wesley from learning and growing.

“We’re not in each others’ lives,” Welsey said. “But it didn’t hinder me in any way or set me back in any way.”

Never knowing what it was like to have a father did not cause Wesley to have a negative attitude. His mother fulfilled both roles and it was simply something else he had to deal with in his life.

Growing up without a father has ultimately made him the person he is today.

“You live and you learn, and you get through it,” Wesley said. “That’s one of the things I had to learn growing up as a kid, not letting something like that penalize me, but use it to my advantage and as a chip on my shoulder.”

Deonne, Wesley’s biggest role model, paved the way for him and taught him to never quit and to always strive to make the best of this life. She saw his potential at a young age and never considered him a troublemaker. With all her hard work and her desire to teach him everything she knew, Wesley followed lead.

“I taught him to be strong and to fight for what was important to him,” Deonne said. “To treat others with fairness, and to never forget where he comes from and the struggles he overcame to get there.”

Not only did his mother’s lessons help Wesley get through his obstacles, but it has also strengthened him mentally.

“I’ve just had a better mindset towards life and know that I can overcome things,” Wesley said. “I’m strong willed and have a strong spirit, and I use that every day.”

Though not blood-related, Coach Tujague has made a big impact in Wesley’s life who is now considered a father figure in his own life. To Wesley, a father looks out for his family and looks out for things outside of football, and Coach Tujague does just that.

“He always just tries to keep my head on straight,” Wesley said. “He’s there for me outside of football and makes sure my school is right and that my family is okay.”

Coach Tujague thought nothing less of Wesley, and described him as somebody who accepts challenges and understands what they are and makes his own life better.

“De’Ondre breaks the negative cycle and strives to pave the way for his future family and makes his mom’s life better,” Tujague said. “He’s a great person and makes great choices. I’m very lucky to have him be a part of my life.”

His mother also recalls experiences of when Wesley taught himself how to ride a bike, roller blade and skate board. Deonne thought Wesley would turn into one big scar from falling so much and having bruises and scratches everywhere.

“But he never gave up no matter how many times he fell,” Deonne said. “He kept trying until he got it.”

Wesley continues to jump over the hurdles of life as he comes closer to achieving his lifelong dreams.

The opportunity to play football opened doors Wesley never had a chance at opening before. As the only person in his family that received an athletic scholarship, his personal goal is to pave the way for his future kids and have his family be proud of his success and the education he received.

Wesley comes from a family who cherishes education. His grandparents earned degrees and his mother earned her Masters. They set the tone for Wesley.

“I feel very fortunate to have an education that other kids in my circumstance wouldn’t get,” Wesley said. “Coming to BYU, I feel like I’ve really buckled down with my life and started taking school and football a lot more seriously than I did in high school and junior college. BYU is a bubble, but it can and has changed people for the better.” 

The impact of not having a father for a child is not always positive, but for Wesley, it has changed him for the better. He grew up making the best decisions he possibly could. His mother took notice when Wesley chose to be around people who were all trying be a positive influence.

“He could have easily gone down a wrong path, but he consistently chose to do the right thing,” Deonne said.

The passion and impact football has had on Wesley was evident to his mother. It released a passion that was not in Wesley before.

“Playing football helped him stay motivated in school, and it gave him a chance to be around like-minded high-achieving young men,” Deonne said. “Playing football caused my son to dream and have high hopes for his future.”

Just like any mother, Deonne hopes for Wesley to realize all his dreams and be happy in any path he chooses. She wants her son to have confidence, be a great leader, motivator and example she knows he can be.

“I think BYU has done a great job at helping him see his own potential to gain the confidence he needs to continue on to see his dreams come to fruition,” Deonne said.

Wesley makes his dreams into a reality, but also realizes that football will end one day. Along with his degree in communications with a broadcast journalism emphasis, Wesley also plans on getting a Masters when the time comes.

“You have to go out into the real world and apply for jobs and make money for your family,” Wesley said. “Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall stresses that a lot to the team and it all depends on how you take that and roll with it.”

The impact football has had on Wesley is not the same for most. Not only has it given him the chance to strive for a career in the NFL and as a sports analyst, but it has also given him the chance to receive a great education and have a father figure in his life.

When he was young…

What people see on the field is not always the same off the field.

Senior offensive tackle, De’Ondre Wesley, is as passionate as they come on the field. However, he turns off the switch when he comes off the field.

“On the field, I’m more of a ‘go, get after it, yelling, have fun’ type of guy,” Wesley said. “I feel like you should have that switch and be able to flip that switch.”

Although Wesley may be considered a jokester, he knows when to flip off the switch. In the words of De’Ondre Wesley’s mother, Deonne Wesley, Wesley was a child who always made his mother proud.

“De’Ondre was always a very sweet child,” Deonne said. “He never gave me trouble. He was also very wise beyond his years.”

“I will never forget, he was about 10 years old and he came in and he could tell that I was upset about something, so he asked, ‘Mom, what’s wrong?’ My response was, ‘I think mom made a bad decision about something, but don’t you worry about it, I’ll be okay.’ His response was, ‘Mom you shouldn’t worry about it either because everyone makes better decisions when it is all said and done, and now you have more information to go on. Before that, you just do the best you can.’”

“I was floored by that response and realized he was right and I was able to move forward.”