William Gay - More Than A Football Star
While still in Pittsburgh this football star felt a growing urge to do something to honor his mother, Carolyn Hall. Carolyn died on March 14, 1992 when William was only seven years old. Carolyn’s death struck deep and hard against young William. He became angry and rebellious. He said his anger kept growing, and he became heartless. He didn’t care about anything or anybody, and he fought everyday. His grandmother, who took William and his brothers in after Carolyn’s death, couldn’t handle him anymore.
One day an uncle intervened and told him, "You are either going to end up in jail or dead. You choose what you want to do. The world doesn’t owe you anything." The Uncle’s advice somehow broke through William’s emotional defenses and registered in his heart. Gay became a good student again. He became a football star in high school, college, and then in the National Football League. During the playing of the national anthem at his first Super Bowl game, Gay cried. He said it reminded him of his mother, and made him wish she was there.
William honored the memory of his mother with a tatoo on his arm, but he wanted more. So, he decided to volunteer at a woman’s abuse shelter. To understand why he made this decision to honor his mom, we have to dig even a little deeper into William Gay’s background.
It was after this tragedy that William became angry and rebellious, and was saved by the loving care of his grandmother and bold intervention of his uncle. He turned his life around, and years later found himself at the Super Bowl, wishing his mother could be there. Realizing he wanted to do something to honor his mom, William began volunteering at the Women’s Center and Shelter of greater Pittsburgh. Gay calls the women at the shelter his heroes. "There are some amazing things they go through and come out of. I want them to know that someone cares and knows what they are going through."
Barbara Nicholas, Director of Development at the Center, says William Gay has "an ability to connect with people and change lives. He validated their stories because of his own personal experience, and he gave them hope that their future could be different."
In an episode of NCIS one of the actors says, "It's the events in our lives that shape us. It's the choices in our lives that define us." William Gay has not let the tragic events of his life shape him. Instead, by showing the humility to listen to his grandmother and uncle, he has risen above his circumstances and has defined his life by the wise choices he had made. Football star? Yes. Wise man? Yes. And that will continue to define him long after his athletic career is over.
(Sources: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8570795 & Wikipedia)