Hilliard athlete battles epilepsy on way to ‘American Ninja Warrior’


HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) — A central Ohio athlete will be making an appearance this season on the NBC hit show “American Ninja Warrior.”

Hilliard native Devante Phillips trains at Movement Lab Ohio, the gym owned by Michelle Warnky, a veteran athlete on “American Ninja Warrior.”

Phillips made his debut on the show last season, but he feels his nerves affected his performance. This year, he is confident in his technique and endurance.

“The first experience was definitely humbling because probably, like most the people who watch the show, I was like, ‘I would’ve made that,’” Phillips said.

He quickly learned the obstacles on the hit NBC show are not that easy.

“I came into the gym, I was failing stuff, couldn’t do the salmon latter, couldn’t even make a move on it,” Phillips said.

Now, the moves come rather easy for the young athlete who found courage in himself after overcoming a barrier in life. Just a few years ago, Phillips thought his battle with epileptic seizures ended all his hopes of competing in any sport.

“I started having them when I was 14, and then we kind of went through a phase where we were trying different medications and it wasn’t working and eventually the football team thought it was a safety risk for me to be on the team, of course, so I couldn’t play football anymore,” Phillips said.

He eventually underwent surgery for his epilepsy.

“Of course, there was the risks with it, but I didn’t want to battle with the medications for the rest of my life,” Phillips said.

While healing from surgery, he watched “American Ninja Warrior” and felt inspired to start his ninja journey.

“I’d like to eventually become a regular person on the show because I do love the sport probably as much as I love football,” Phillips said.

At the age of 21, he is now healthy and confident in his warrior skills. Phillips trains alongside his teammates twice a week.

“I love Devante as a teammate and he’s one of the most talented people that I ever saw,” said Josh Pena, a fellow competitor on the show.

When asked about his performance on the show this season, he answered, “I can’t tell you anything about how I did or how my friends did, but I can tell you to watch!”

Fans can watch Phillips compete on “American Ninja Warrior” Monday, July 12 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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