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Art Naturally

Xavier Ayers felt he was forcing himself to get a business degree to make a good living. But as an artist, he is finding he can impact people’s lives. WESTERN NEW MEXICO UNIVERSITY PHOTO

Xavier Ayers experienced a breakout season as a junior at Western New Mexico University. The wide receiver, finally healthy after injuries to both shoulders, led the football team with 91 receptions – 65 more than in either previous season – for 1,356 yards and five touchdowns as the game once again started to feel natural.

But more important was his breakout off the field. After two years of forcing himself to pursue a business degree, which felt as unnatural as football felt natural, a photography class yielded a discovery: Ayers was a talented artist. His photography and painting instructors heaped praise, the type of encouragement he never found as he strained through business courses.

He switched his major to art and drew more accolades: A picture of a camouflage bedroom he painted for a client in the style of the Bape clothing line drew 1,000 retweets on Twitter, and a local salon commissioned Ayers to paint a mural on the shop’s exterior wall facing Route 66. Now, after struggling to ignite a passion in business, Ayers sees a future in art that comes to him with the same feeling as football. “It just feels natural,” he says.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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