When he was 18-years old new Steelers' wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey made a promise.
At the time, many might have thought it was simply the words of an overenthusiastic high school student who wanted to do something special for a school he loved so much.
But Heyward-Bey is a man of his word, and 10 years later is fulfilling the promise he made to McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland. He is paying for lights for the high school's athletic stadium, allowing the football team to play Friday night football games for the first time ever at home in 2014.
"When I played football and we had games on Saturday afternoons," said Heyward-Bey. "I remember thinking why are we playing on Saturday. We always missed the college football games because we were playing. I remember talking to our athletic director (Mickey Deegan) my senior year and asking why and she said it's because we don't have lights. I remember telling her one day I would like to be able to bring lights to the stadium. Ten years later I was able to do that."
He said the promise to make the lights a reality came about not just because of his commitment to it, but also the hard work of his mother, Vivian Heyward-Bey, who was responsible for putting together all of the details during the 2013 football season and finalizing it all this past February.
"My mother called me and told me about the things they were doing at the school, new buildings, and she mentioned me wanting to do that," said Heyward-Bey. "A quick conversation turned into something serious, and we were able to make that happen.
"I talked to our headmaster for about an hour about how much the school means to me and how much I mean to the school. It's been a great relationship ever since I stepped foot on campus. They were happy to do it and I was happy to make this gift happen. It wasn't just about football; it was about all of the other sports. We have a very good lacrosse team. They are the best in the country. They have an opportunity to play under the lights. I am happy for how many student athletes will get to enjoy it."
Photos of new Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey during his days at McDonogh high school.
While Heyward-Bey is hoping he will get to see the first game under the lights, scheduled for Sept. 5, for him being able to make good on his promise is something that he takes pride in.
"It's surreal because when you are 18 years old you say a lot of crazy things," said Heyward-Bey. "When you get older you don't think you will be able to make a promise come true. I am blessed I am able to do something like that. Some might say a school like that doesn't need more, but that's where I come from. They have changed my life so I want to change theirs.
"One of the best decisions I made was going to that school. It changed my outlook on life. The relationships, the people I know from that school have changed who I am today. The people I went to high school with went on to Harvard, Princeton and Penn. Those relationships, we are still friends today. They own businesses and are doing great things in life. Those relationships are still beneficial today."