By now you may have read stories about new Dolphin William Hayes pertaining to mermaids, dinosaurs and the moon, but there’s another unique side to him that’s as serious as it gets.
Hayes was once homeless.
It was only for one night, and it wasn’t for lack of money, which is where things really get interesting.
While playing for the Rams in St. Louis, Hayes and fellow defensive lineman Chris Long spent one night in 2015 as homeless men to get a better understanding of how difficult it could be.
Here’s how difficult it was: They originally planned to do it for two days but cut it short.
After getting the idea when they spotted the homeless near the Rams’ stadium, they put on raggedy clothes, donned a bit of makeup so they wouldn’t be recognized, ditched their cellphones and headed out with $4 each and an ESPN hidden camera following them.
They begged for money.
Hayes didn’t end up with even a dollar.
Rams’ office personnel walked right past them without doing a double-take.
They visited a homeless shelter but ended up sleeping in the back of an abandoned van, cold.
“It was a very powerful event to go through,” Hayes told his hometown paper, the High Point (N.C.) Enterprise.
Although ESPN did a segment on Hayes and Long, it was not a PR stunt or for publicity.
Hayes is a former Rams nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his community work. He donated $1,000 for every sack to a resource center for the homeless in St. Louis. His Big Plays Hayes Foundation was dedicated in part to the homeless. Even his grandfather’s old barber shop in High Point used to take the tip jar and hand it over to an urban ministry that served the homeless.
That night out on the streets was an experience of a lifetime for Hayes, albeit not a good one.
“It was the worst night I’ve ever had in my life for sure,” Hayes told ESPN. “My body hurts so bad right now.”
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