For a long time, Diontae Spencer didn't feel comfortable telling his story, but eventually he found that he'd have to be.
The story he couldn't tell is this: When he was freshman at McNeese State, Spencer got a phone call in his dorm room. The voice on the other line told him that his father, Clifton Williams, had been shot and killed in an apparent botched robbery at his barbershop in Spencer's hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana.
"Not really getting to spend a whole lot of time with my dad because he was in prison growing up as a kid, and to get him back and kind of get that bond and grow those relationships with him as I go off to college and getting that phone call was devastating," Spencer said in a roundtable discussion hosted by PEOPLE with other pro athletes who have been affected by gun violence.
The pain was consuming, and Spencer found talking about it impossible. At McNeese State's Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, his colleagues encouraged him to share his story, but at that time, he couldn't.
Since then, though, Spencer has found that his story can be a powerful message to help combat gun violence. The past two years, he has featured Everytown for Gun Safety during the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats campaign to support the cause. The roundtable video for PEOPLE comes just days before National Gun Violence Survivors Week.
"It's something that I always remember, and it took me a while to still talk about it to today," Spencer said, "but that's what I feel like my personal story can help [with]: somebody else that's either dealt with the same thing I've dealt with or that's pretty much in those situations [where] a family member gets killed and it's kind of one of those things where you have to decide whether you're going to sit and be angry and be frustrated and you want to get revenge and all those different things. …
"It's something that I'm comfortable talking about now because it helped me grow throughout my journey in life and just sharing it, I feel like it affects so many different people in communities that dealt with the same issue."
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