KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Diamond DeShields' impact on Tennessee went deeper than just on the basketball court in January.
For the second-straight year, DeShields represented the Southeastern Conference and her fellow student-athletes as one of 15 student-athlete delegates at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
Just as they did in the inaugural year of the governance structure last year, the 15 student-athlete delegates had full voting rights, meaning the votes they cast carried the same weight as the 65 "Power Five" schools represented by administrators.
"I felt like a veteran of the event," DeShields said. "Last year, I was just wide-eyed and really excited. This year, after seeing the legislation from last year implemented, I really understood the importance of what we were doing."
Donna Thomas, Tennessee's senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator accompanied DeShields to the convention.
"To sit in the room with 65 schools and know that one of the 15 student-athletes wears your uniform, you can't help but pop at the seams with pride," Thomas said. "Especially when it is someone like Diamond who has really made an effort to be a leader in that role. She is vocal, she asks good questions and she expresses her opinions. It's incredibly fulfilling to know that our student-athletes are doing things off the court that we hope they will do."
After the sweeping changes from a year ago, the agenda at this year's convention was comparatively lighter, but it still allowed DeShields and her fellow delegates the opportunity to work with administrators to give the student-athlete perspective on issues that impact college sports.
"Some of them may not have ever been student-athletes, and if they were, it was a while ago," DeShields said. "I think we gave them insight into things that they didn't know. They value what we have to say. It's good to see that from them."
Another difference this time around was DeShields' schedule. She attended the convention while redshirting last year. This year, she had to balance the convention around Tennessee's game at Arkansas on the first night.
"It was a little bit of a logistical puzzle, but we made it work," Thomas said. "We went to the meetings on Thursday, left Thursday afternoon and flew to Fayetteville. After the game, we got back on a plane and flew back to San Antonio."
It was a schedule that required her to eat her pregame meal on the plane to northwest Arkansas, meeting up with her teammates an hour before making the drive on the team bus to the arena. The postgame flight back to San Antonio meant another quick turnaround for the Friday sessions at the convention.
"It's 1 in the morning and Diamond and I are going back up the elevator," Thomas recalled. "I said 'Ok, the first meeting starts at 8 a.m., breakfast is at 7:30. Do you need a wake-up call?' She said 'No, I'll be there,' and she was, right on time."
Despite the travel and the compressed schedule, it was important to DeShields to uphold her commitment to her fellow student-athletes while also leading her team in scoring with 14 points during her interlude in Arkansas.
Sitting on the convention floor, the gravity of what she was there to represent once again became very clear.
"Every little thing matters," DeShields said. "Whether it's cost of attendance, parking, hours, off days, it all matters. If it didn't, we wouldn't be talking about it. Even though there wasn't a huge 180-degree turn this year, I still valued the opportunity to have my voice heard."