William Gay did what many don't have the courage to do. He spoke out about the most painful time in his life, not to benefit himself, but to help others, to bring awareness, and to hopefully save a life.
He has become a hero to those who are victims of domestic violence, a voice for a crime that often is silent.
And on Tuesday, Gay was honored for his courage, for his commitment, for his strength in the wake of tragedy with the Ed Block Courage Award at the annual Arthur J Rooney Sr. Courage House Luncheon benefiting Holy Family Institute luncheon at Heinz Field.
"It's reflective of the type of man that he is," said Coach Mike Tomlin, who presented the award to Gay. "For him to be able to get to the point, take the pain, and be able to use it for the benefit and to educate others, and let people know they are not alone, and be a beacon for the cause, I just have so much respect for him."
Will Gay is honored at the Holy Family Courage House Luncheon.
Gay experienced the horrific pain of domestic violence when he was just eight years old and his mother, Carolyn Hall, tried to escape an abusive relationship she was in with his stepfather. When she tried to leave the relationship, his stepfather shot her to death and then shot himself.
The experience impacted Gay then, and still does. The pain will never go away, but what he is doing now is helping others who are victims of domestic violence, in particular intimate partner violence. "The pain doesn't go away, but I can cope with it better now because I am more mature," said Gay. "I know how to let my feelings go towards something positive which I know my mom would want me to do."
Gay has been involved with the Women's Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh for the last few years, has done PSAs for the 'No More' initiative, and had the strength and courage to talk about what still brings sadness to his heart.
"Will is a great leader for our team in a lot of different ways, certainly with the way he has gotten the courage to speak out about a subject that in a lot of areas is not discussed often, swept under the rug in some cases," said Steelers president Art Rooney II. "He stepped up and shined a light on it. He is committed to it. It's not a one day thing for him. He is available to help in a lot of different ways. We are really proud of him."
Gay, who was honored at the luncheon along with Holy Family alumni Danielle Harvey, humbly accepted his award, but not for himself. He did so for his mother, and for every victim of domestic violence and he had a plea for everyone.
"This is for my mom," said Gay. "It's for other women like her that went through the situation they went through and it was hard for them and their families. I do this for the women. I tell them you are not survivors, you are heroes.
"I will continue this fight even if my days are over on the field. It means that much to me to end domestic violence in the world. If all of us would come together, speak out if you see something, it would be a tremendous help. I want to encourage everyone. Take 'No More' personal. No more excuses. No more it's not my business. Let's join in and continue to do that every day."