NFL star DeAndre Hopkins has turned his career into a family affair.
The Houston Texans All-Pro wide receiver has a tradition in which he hands his blind mother, Sabrina Greenlee, a ball after he scores a touchdown.
The tradition was on full display Thursday night when Hopkins scored two touchdowns in his team’s nationally televised 20-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts that propelled Houston into first place in the AFC South.
Greenlee lost her vision in 2002 in an acid attack when a woman threw a combination of lye and bleach on her during a domestic dispute involving a man Greenlee had been dating. She remained in a medically induced coma for several weeks.
"And as I'm lying there, the first thing I'm thinking is, 'Why would someone pour warm water on my face?'" she told ESPN in October. "But a couple of seconds later, I realized it wasn't warm water, because my skin is literally falling off my face, my neck, my chest and my back."
Greenlee has used her experience as a springboard to start a nonprofit organization called S.M.O.O.O.T.H., which stands for Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing.
“S.M.O.O.O.T.H. is an unprecedented attempt to eliminate the epidemic of Domestic Violence and transcend those affected from hurt to healing,” reads a statement on its website. “Our mission is to empower, educate, and prepare survivors of Domestic Violence by acknowledging, celebrating, and affirming their whole selves.”
Hopkins was a child at the time of the attack. He enrolled at Clemson University where he became a star on the football team before being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Texans.
He said handing his mom the ball is a way of staying close to her.
"Whenever I score a touchdown or do something, I try to make sure she gets the ball so she can feel me," he told ESPN.
Hopkins, who now has six touchdowns this season, has never forgotten the incident which changed his mother's life.
"It's helped me learn a lot, about life, about how to treat a woman," he told ESPN. "It's helped me become a man."