It was a long, sometimes trying road for Diontae Spencer to get from growing up in New Iberia to achieving his dream of playing football in the NFL, and the Denver Broncos wide receiver/return specialist is doing what he can to let kids in his hometown know that their dreams can come true.
Spencer, who not too long ago was in town to speak to some of those kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana’s New Iberia unit, made a $5,000 donation to the club on Friday, with his mother and several other relatives there to present the check for him.
“He wants kids to look at him and see that dreams do come true,” Vanessa Spencer said. “You can start out with something tragic happening in your life, like he’s had tragedy, and he never gave up. He continued to move on throughout school, academically, and he played sports.
“And he just feels that if he can reach out to the kids and let them know that you can always follow your dreams and dreams do come true. He feels that every kid should have a chance regardless of setbacks, because there are comebacks. It’s just a story and a blessing that he’s had and he wants to share it with the kids.”
Spencer’s dream started at Westgate High School. His mom noted that he spent many days at the Boys & Girls Club when he was younger.
“He felt that he wanted to support them because he had ties with the local Boys & Girls Club,” she said. “He came a few months back and he spoke to them and he said that he was going to give something to the Boys & Girls Club.”
Unit director Brianna Davis was excited about the gift, and for the visits Spencer has made to the club. Spencer told the kids he’d never missed a day of school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and encouraged them to keep their grades up because academics was always as important to him as sports, and helped him achieve his dream.
“The kids are still talking about it,” Davis said of Spencer’s visit to the club.
Despite setting records at McNeese State University, many scouts felt he was too small at 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds for the NFL. After being cut by the St. Louis Rams after signing with them in 2014, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
After two seasons he signed as a free agent with the Ottawa Redblacks, setting a CFL single-game record with 496 yards in 2017 and being named to the CFL East All-Star team as a returner. Another season that saw him gain 1,000 yards receiving led to a spot in the CFL All-Star game as a returner again, and the Redblacks advanced to the CFL championship game that season.
In 2019, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then was claimed off waivers by the Broncos that September.
Vanessa Spencer said her son hopes to make a return visit to the club to tell them to continue to push forward and follow their dreams.
She said grades were always important to him, and he made it his goal to be one of the top graduates at Westgate, which he did. He also made it a goal to excel at sports and play in college, which he also did. He hopes his story can help inspire some of the young people in the community, she said.
Davis said he is inspiring to the youngsters at the club, and the organization appreciates all he’s doing to help inspire them.
“We’re super grateful for him making this donation,” she said.