'No matter what your circumstances are, you can always turn your life around'
Building a Legacy: De'vonta' Roberts, Student-Athlete at RCTC and Legacy Scholar
Tell me about yourself.
I like to play football, work out, listen to music, chill with family, and relax. I’m very goofy, my energy is through the roof. When I come around, people say I bring the energy. I always feel filled with happiness and joy.
How are you able to stay so positive?
Life is hard for me. But I don’t have anything to feel bad about. There’s always someone who has it worse than me. I just put it all in God’s hands.
You mentioned your family, tell me about them.
I have seven siblings. I have a brother that’s in prison, another brother that just got locked up, one brother that passed away, two sisters—one older and one younger—and two other brothers.
I love my sisters. My older sister, Xaveira, she’s a CNA, she works two jobs and goes to school. She’s kept our family together. She’s like the mama, she keeps everybody together. My baby sister, Tyshiraterrika, graduated from high school, got four kids, has a job, and hopefully will get her own house soon. She’s doing really good for being her age and having four kids. I love my auntie, too. She helped me out a lot. I love being an uncle. My niece and I have a bond that’s incredible.
But I’m the first one to go to college. It’s a good thing, but I feel like I have to be the one to actually take our family to the next level. My mom was locked up a lot. She feels like she doesn’t have anyone to help her become a better person. She feels like she doesn’t have any friends or family. She still just doesn’t have her stuff together, yet. But my sister and I are working on getting her back on her feet. We’re trying to help her find stable housing and get a job.
What made you want to go to college?
Football. Since I was younger, I always wanted to be a football player. In second grade, I was trying to play football with eighth and ninth graders. I just love the game. When I knew that football could take me a long way—like getting my college paid for—I thought why not go for it.
What are you studying?
Sports Management. I want to play football professionally. I feel like I always wanted to go pro since I’ve seen my role models do it and my coaches do it. People who trained me have been in the NFL, and multiple have told me they think I have the chance to go pro. So when they told me that, my mind has been stuck on it.
But I know there is also life after football, and I want to start my own business, my own gym. I want to teach kids that there are more ways to do great things in life besides selling dope or being gang bangers. I just want to give back to the community. I want to give others hope by showing that you don’t have to be violent to be successful.
That’s incredible. Why did you come to Rochester?
My football coach, Coach Isaac, got a coaching job here in Rochester at RCTC. And he wanted me to come here with him, so I did. There are great people here that are willing to help you and go out of their way for you, and not expect anything in return. But also, because there’s not much to do here, there’s a lot of drama here. There’s a lot of trouble to get up to here, so you have to stay focused and stay out of the drama.
What is something that no one knows about you?
No one ever asks about the meaning behind my tattoos. One of my tattoos is Jesus, another is dedicated to my grandma, and another says “love is loyalty.”
I have one on my arm that’s a flag with my brother’s name. My older brother, Jeremy S. Lockwood, drowned in front of me when I was in fourth grade and he was in seventh grade. It was hard. That changed my whole perspective on life. It made me want to stop being a troublemaker and be a better person.
Another one I have on my arm says “Bradley Street.” It's the street I grew up on in Quincy, Fla. I have a lot of great memories from there, but some bad memories. Growing up on Bradley Street wasn’t the best. There was a lot of drama and lots of police. We were living with roaches, rats, and snakes. I put it on my arm because it’s something I’ll never forget.
What will a headline in five years say about you?
“De’Vonta to the rescue.” I want to help all people—homeless people, kids in foster care, and families that need help. I want to help people get their lives back together. Because I’ve been in a situation like that. I was in foster care. My auntie helped me get out of that. A lot of homeless people helped me with encouragement too. If I didn’t get that help I might not have gotten out.
What do you want to leave readers with?
I want people to know that no matter where you come from, you can always go up and be great. No matter what your circumstances are, you can always turn your life around. It’s never too late.
It’s all about how you handle your situations. People tell me I wasn’t going to make it and that football wouldn’t save me. But now I’m doing it. I’m graduating with my Associate’s Degree in Sports Management, making all As and Bs. I got 11 full-ride D1 and D2 offers to play football, and I just committed to Bemidji State with a full scholarship. I get to see my sisters, my auntie, and my niece smile. My family trusts me and they’re proud of me, and that’s the best thing. I’m doing what I always knew I could.
This interview is part of the Building a Legacy series by Alysha Carlisle and Mackenzie Rutherford, highlighting Rochester’s youth of color.
About the authors:
Mackenzie Rutherford is a native of Rochester and a graduate of Rochester John Marshall High School. She spent her recent years attaining her B.A. at Scripps College in Claremont, California, and her M.S. at SOAS University of London. She is a staff member at Project Legacy and a freelance Social Media Strategist.
Alysha Carlisle is originally from Oakland, Calif. She graduated with her BSW in 2021 and now serves as a social worker at Project Legacy and a research coordinator at Mayo Clinic.