Former receiver shares story of addiction to help athletes, community members thrive

SAN DIEGO -- "Treasure where you're at because it can be gone in a heartbeat," said Bob West. "Don't do anything that will deter you from where you are."

Former NFL player Bob West wants to share that message with current players -- or anyone for that matter -- because the former Aztec and Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver learned life in the spotlight doesn't last for long.

The San Diego native reached the pinnacle in football in the 1970s, but says he never felt satisfied. He says he got caught up in the culture outside of the locker room which lead him to a struggle with drugs and alcohol which ultimately shortened his NFL career. West says his father suffered from substance abuse and he swore he would never follow those footsteps.

"During that time I remember I had a couple of teammates ask me to go out with them," said West. "I had a strong pull and urge to fit in. That was my introduction to it and it took me down a road I really didn't want to go down."

West eventually sobered up through a program called "Crash Inc" right here in San Diego, and he says the last 21 years of his life have been his happiest. The 66-year-old now sits on the board of "Crash Inc," and speaks to those in the program about his story. He stays involved in his church, and he and his wife help feed hundreds of people every week. The Lincoln High grad also says he uses his football background to connect with high school kids he meets that already face addiction problems, hoping he can help them stay on the right track.

"I had a local high school coach call me and have one of his young men come over and talk to me the other day who is struggling with meth. It's a huge problem in this city," said West. "It's not gender-specific, race-specific, it will come and get you no matter what. But if we don't talk about this kind of thing, where is the solution?"

Beyond overcoming his addition problem, West also beat prostate cancer which he says only adds to his strong desire to continue to give back.

"I want to put a smile on someone's face. I'm going to interact purposely with someone I don't know every day, and then I'm going to tell them how special they are and how important it is to be alive," West said.