St. Louis Rams defensive ends William Hayes and Chris Long took to the streets of their team's city in March to experience what it's like to be homeless.
St. Louis Rams defensive linemen William Hayes and Chris Long took to the streets of their team's city to experience homelessness two months ago.
Don't Miss: Incredible Pokemon Gifts
According to a May 31 update from ESPN senior writer Elizabeth Merrill, both Hayes and Long took to the streets of St. Louis on March 22. Hayes wore floodwater pants while Long had "penciled-in wrinkles around his eyes," per Merrill.
Both NFL players wore makeup, hats and disheveled clothing so fans won't recognize them. Merrill says ESPN camers and a plain-clothes police officer follwed them as they went around St. Louis.
Nicole Woodie, the St. Louis Rams' community outreach manager, organized Hayes and Long's little adventure. She even had to drop by several thrift shops to find clothes which would be big enough for the two men, per Merrill.
Hayes initially refused to be followed around with a camera, saying people might think he is just a fake. However, Woodie and the St. Patrick Center (a non-profit organization which helps homeless people in St. Louis) were able to convince him this could be a very effective way of raising awareness of homelessness.
The two men braved the streets in 30-degree weather and only $8 between them. Neither one was recognized while they begged for alms just outside the Rams' Edward Jones Dome, per ESPN.
Merrill says Hayes and Long warmed up in a nearby fire in a barrell. However, a homeless, middle-aged man named Marty said they were encroaching on his territory. He promptly chased them off.
They stumbled upon an empty box truck, where they slept for the night. They still felt cold, with Hayes telling Merrill he hardly slept:
"I wasn't scared, but it was more so the idea of not knowing the next move. I'm trying to close my eyes. We have a security guard with us, but he was like, 'If somebody really wanted to come in here to lift this thing up to shoot all of us and rob us, they could easily do it.'
"Basically, I'm trying to sleep, but I'm trying to figure out what's going to be my next move in the morning. When you get up, it's like, gosh, we've got nowhere to go."
They woke up at past five to a rainy St. Louis morning. Merrill says "the experiment lasted about 24 hours." Hayes and Long boarded a van and scoured the areas they were at the day before.
They spotted Marty at the exact same spot where he chased them off a day earlier. Marty used to run his own construction business, but his life spiraled downward -- he and his wife divorced, he was charged with several DWIs and ended up in a warehouse with a homeless woman named Nancy, per ESPN.
Hayes and Long were so touched by Marty's story they decided to put him and Nancy in an extended-stay hotel for two months. The two Rams players provided them with disposable cell phones, groceries and bus passes, per Merrill.
We were supposed to stay in a shelter after our first night on the streets before our cover was blown.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) May 31, 2015
Even though Marty landed a job in the construction industry and Nancy benefited from outreach support, Hayes told Merrill he's still worried about them:
"I can't change the world. They could relapse," he said. "With Marty, I see he wants to make a difference. I feel like he was getting tired of the lifestyle he was living."
Merrill says the experience changed the lives of the two Rams defensive linemen. Hayes told ESPN he resented the way people looked at him in a judgmental way as he took to the streets.
On the other hand, Long "used to look the other way when he saw a homeless person," says Merrill. Even back then, he would write checks for the St. Patrick Center, but has never been involved in a way quite like this.
A day after his experience on the streets, he checked back at the center and promised he would return, per ESPN.
He told Merrill the plight of the homeless is still an issue many which fail to fully comprehend:
"We don't understand. We weren't hoping to understand. We were just hoping to gain a little perspective and put kind of a feeling with the cause that we had been [donating to] from a distance the last couple of years."
One thing: I need to find the guy that gave me five bucks!!!! I felt terrible and blown away by his kindness at the same time!— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) May 31, 2015
Long's foundation, The Chris Long Foundation, was launched on May 20. According to its official website, it aims to "raise money for the Waterboys Initiative, dedicated to building wells for communities in East Africa."
A May 29 update from Myles Simmons of the Rams' official website says the Waterboys Initiative aims to build four wells in Tanzania. It also envisions having 32 clean-water wells for 32 teams.
Long's father, Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders defensive end and current FOX Sports NFL analyst Howie Long, told Simmons this will be a tough undertaking, but expressed confidence his son can do the job:
"It's a great cause, and I think people in NFL locker rooms -- just like any other professional locker room -- are inundated with requests for money for a handful of worthy charities. But it's not just someone taking part in a foundation -- it's him.
"He's doing the ground work. He's picking up the phone, he's calling people. He's reaching out himself personally and investing in it. And I think people see that."
Make sure to log on to I4U News for the latest trends and developments for the geek mind.
Buy Now: Sony PlaysStation VR In Stock Here