Williams: 'It's not just a color, it's a culture'


Amidst the black and gold on Thursday night at Heinz Field, the pink could clearly be seen. There were pink Terrible Towels, hats, player's spikes, gloves and other equipment. There were pink banners and ribbons.

It was all part of the NFL's commitment every October to honor breast cancer awareness month, which included survivors being honored before the game.

But for running back DeAngelo Williams, pink is much more than a color worn in October.

"It's not just a color, it's a culture for me because of the family I lost to this disease and the people, the extended family I have met, survivors, friends and family members," said Williams. "It's definitely not a color, it's a culture."

The Steelers recognize breast cancer awareness month by wearing pink on the field.

Williams' life has been drastically impacted by breast cancer in the most tragic of ways. His mother, his biggest fan and most-loving supporter, Sandra Hill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She fought a long, tough battle, but eventually the disease took her life in 2014. But that wasn't it. He also lost four aunts, all of his mother's sisters, to the horrific disease.

It wasn't easy for Williams, it never is losing someone you love so much. But he turned his pain into a passion for helping others, for bringing awareness year round to a disease that he is determined to help find a cure for.

Williams has the tips of his dreadlocks dyed pink and his toenails are pink, something you don't expect from a football player but you can understand why. Shortly before his mother passed away she went into hospice care. Williams' daughter painted his toenails pink, and when his mother saw them during a visit she liked them. So he kept them. During training camp he wore sandals to serve as a reminder of what the battle is all about.

"When I drop my head and I look down and I'm feeling sorry for myself, I know that my mom and my aunts are looking over me and, like, it could be so much worse," said Williams. "I instantly get a smile on my face, pick my head up, and I go about my work."

Williams started the DeAngelo Williams Foundation, something that is two-fold for him. It helps fight literacy, but the main thing is it helps in the fight against breast cancer. He had a team of "Williams Warriors" participate in the Race for the Cure in Charlotte each year, and the foundation has donated over $500,000 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and additional funds to other charities fighting breast cancer.

"It's not just October. It's all year. It's 365," said Williams. "That is why I did the pink nails, the pink hair. It's because it's a 365 fight. It only comes to the forefront one month for various companies and sponsors and things like that. They designated it for October, but the disease doesn't go away the other 11 months. It's just not in the forefront. I understand everybody is fighting a battle with something, I always pull for everyone fighting a disease, but my battle is breast cancer.

"Well after I am done with football I am going to continue the fight."

Williams hope is that others don't have to face the same tragedy he did. That others don't lose loved ones to the disease. That one day, there will be a cure and pain will not be felt by others.

"I miss my mom every day," said Williams. "Not a day goes by that I don't want to pick up the phone and call her. People don't last, but memories last. That is what I always fall back on, the memories. She was there for me good, bad, or indifferent.

"I would do anything to give those memories away and just have her. But right now the memories are what get me through."

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