Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams is committed to fighting breast cancer. In 2015, the former NFL star, who played college football at the University of Memphis, began paying for the cost of mammogram screening for women through his nonprofit organization, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation.
Since then, the foundation has funded more than 500 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Williams has a personal connection to breast cancer, having lost his mother Sandra Hill to the disease when she was just 53 years old in 2014. Williams has also lost his four aunts to breast cancer, all before the age of 50.
Williams began funding free mammogram screening in honor of his mother through the "53 Strong for Sandra" program. At each event, the organization covers mammograms for 53 women, though its goal is to host free mammogram screening events in every state. "To be able to help all these women is amazing. This can be life-changing for these women," Williams said in a statement to TODAY recently. "We are enabling them to get this care that no one should ever be denied or not have access to."
According to his wife, Risalyn Williams, who is the executive director of The DeAngelo Williams Foundation, "DeAngelo wants to ensure that no woman (or man) fights breast cancer alone."
In 2009, Williams was instrumental in pressuring the NFL to allow players to wear pink cleats throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. At the time, football games featured pink headphones, pink cleats and pink pom poms in October. In 2015, Williams asked the league to allow him to wear pink on his uniform all year, but they declined. In recent years, however, the NFL's partnership with the American Cancer Society has supported the prevention and early detection of several cancers, including breast cancer, with the "Crucial Catch" program.
Williams, who also works with Susan G. Komen, formerly known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer organization in the United States, has pink highlights in his dreadlocks to support the fight against the disease.
Since the DeAngelo Williams Foundation was established in 2006, the foundation has played a crucial role in increasing breast cancer awareness, both online and offline. As an example, Williams posted an NFL commercial he was featured in for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to his Facebook page, which resulted in more than 1.3 million video views.