The Tennessee Titans have struggled in 2023, sitting at 4-8 heading into Week 14. A positive, though, has been wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
During Weeks 13 and 14 of the NFL season, players are allowed to wear customized cleats in honor of the causes they have chosen to support through My Cause My Cleats. Hopkins’ choice was fueled by what happened to his mother. What happened?
What Happened to DeAndre Hopkins’ Mother?
Hopkins decided to do his My Cause My Cleats with S.M.O.O.O.T.H. — a non-profit connecting domestic violence survivors to resources and financial assistance. His mother, Sabrina Greenlee, was a victim of a similar situation.
"There is hope… get up each day and believe in yourself."💜@DeAndreHopkins has a very personal connection to domestic violence. Now, he uses his platform to support S.M.O.O.O.T.H, a non-profit connecting survivors to resources & provides financial assistance. #MyCauseMyCleats pic.twitter.com/LCXX1Ip6wM
— NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2023
“What gives me the fuel to want to help is my mom, who is blind from a domestic violence situation,” said Hopkins. “And her drive that she has every day — waking up to continue life. Not making any excuses and still doing what she loves to do, and that’s helping other people.”
Greenlee, a single mother of four, was caught up in abusive relationships early in Hopkins’ life. She lost her vision because of it 21 years ago. A woman, who she didn’t know, threw acid at her face in a bout of jealous rage. The attack took her vision and disfigured her face.
Hopkins was only 10 years old when it happened. Although she regained her sight in spurts, she eventually lost it fully. Her vision loss came just as Hopkins was blooming into one of the NFL’s greatest stars. As a result, she visualizes his highlights in her mind. “I visualize everything that he does,” she said. “The dreads, the body movement.”
Greenlee attends every game she can. When Hopkins scores a touchdown, he hands her the football. According to the family, the ritual serves as a reminder that, while she can’t see him, he still sees her.
Hopkins grew up in South Carolina, where he earned his nickname, Nuk. His father, Steve, passed away in a car accident when he was just a baby. His mother would work hard to make ends meet while still attempting to be present and attend Hopkins’ games.
Her abusive relationship history began before she met Hopkins’ father, with her claiming she had been beaten four times and put in the hospital once. After Hopkins’ father passed away, she found herself in more violent relationships.
One of those toxic relationships nearly cost her her life in her late 20s. On July 20, 2002, Greenlee woke up to her car missing. A man she was dating at the time had borrowed it without asking. When she went to receive it, a woman ran out with a bucket of bleach mixed with lye. The woman then threw the bucket at Greenlee.
After the attack, Greenlee was airlifted to a burn center in Augusta, Georgia, where she was placed in a medically induced coma as doctors grafted skin from her chest and back onto her face. She woke up several weeks later.
Since her attack, Greenlee has had more than 20 surgeries on each of her eyes. Cornea transplants were included in those surgeries.
S.M.O.O.O.T.H, which stands for Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing, was founded by Greenlee the year Hopkins was drafted. Hopkins was drafted by the Houston Texans with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The two worked together to advance the cause.
“It’s helped me learn a lot, about life, about how to treat a woman,” said Hopkins. “It’s helped me become a man.” The foundation has helped dozens of survivors transition into new lives, giving them vouchers, counseling, and makeovers.
Hopkins spent three seasons with the University of Clemson, where he started his career. In his three seasons, he caught 206 passes for 3,020 yards and 27 touchdowns. In high school, he played both ways. He had 57 receptions for 1,266 yards and 18 touchdowns on offense and 28 interceptions and five touchdowns on defense.
Since being drafted, Hopkins has played for the Texans, Titans, and Arizona Cardinals. He’s caught 903 passes for 12,072 yards and 76 touchdowns. He has the second-most career yards of any active player in the NFL. He sits only behind Julio Jones, who has 13,645 yards.
In Week 14, Hopkins will wear his cleats when the Titans face the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins are 9-3 so far on the season and currently hold the top seed in the AFC.
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