Tumor stopped RIT diving coach’s Olympic dreams, but couldn’t keep him from the sport

Cliff Devries was 21 and a promising diving talent when doctors removed a 6-inch tumor in his spinal column. That surgery left him paralyzed on his right side and caused him to pursue a new career.
6:53 | 11/02/19

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Transcript for Tumor stopped RIT diving coach’s Olympic dreams, but couldn’t keep him from the sport
My name is cliff Devries. I'm a diving coach at rit. You might see me walking down the road and think, wow, he's got it rough. But there's more. Which is a little bit beyond what you think right now. 58.85. I can't remember a time when I didn't love diving. I was the New York state empire state games champion in high school and selected for one of the all Americans in my junior and senior year. That led to a scholarship at the university of Kentucky. I had that olympic dream, and with my increasing skills and the rate at which I was improving I thought I had a I S trying to do more complicated, more difficult dives, and they just weren't coming. I started to lose movement in my shoulder. My shoulder was becoming noticeably more and more weak. Yeah, I was struggling. It got worse and worse. So I went in, and I got an mri. I found out a day later that I had a 6-inch tumor in my spinal column that was pressing up against my spinal cord and causing me to lose the function in my shoulder and my arm. I went in for surgery the first weekend of March of 1995. And I was 21 at the time. It was a 13-hour surgery. There were some complications during the surgery. All the system equipment went and they didn't have any life signs on me. I think that my life was teetering. I had severe, severe trauma to my spinal cord. Severe scarring. So they were basically planning for me to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I think at that point I was tired of hearing that I wasn't going to be able to do this, I wasn't going to be able to do that, and I said I'm tired of hearing this stuff. I'm going to walk again. I'm going to make it happen. Not only am I going to walk again, but I'm going to make something of my life. Right after my surgery, I went back to my high school to watch some diving, and then I found out that they didn't have a coach. And they said hey, why don't you start coaching, and we'll give you the job. And then they had an opening here, and I decided to apply. They took a chance on a guy who couldn't walk very well to come in and lead the diving program here at R.I.T. That's a beautiful dive, but you got a beautiful pike that I'm not seeing on there, so close that pike up. Daly, slow down. I would always love to be back on the boards. And whenever coaches jump up on the boards I feel a little bit you want to be back diving. You want to feel what it's like to be bouncing, to be flying and then go through that water. I always like pushing myself, seeing what the next thing I could do is. And I thought, you know what? I could do a dive. I'm like, I'm going to try a dive, and my birthday's coming up, so I'm going to do a dive on my birthday. There's always more to you. There's always more to what you can do. You might see me walking down the road and think, wow, he's got it rough, but there's more. When you look beyond what's on the surface, there's always more. You're not going to find a lot of beauty in what I do, but it's a lot of hard work. It's a lot of emotion. That's all balled up into a little half-second fall into the water. Happy birthday to you happy birthday dear cliff happy birthday to you When you see my dive, what else can you do? What, what can you find in yourself? What can you find in others? When you look in the mirror, what else is there? What else do you have? What more can you bring out? Which is a little bit beyond what you think right now. Wednesday was cliff's 46th birthday. I bit can you guess how he celebrated, another dive.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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