St. Louis Rams players experience homelessness for 24 hours [Video]

Two defensive ends for the St. Louis Rams decided to find out what it was like to be homeless for a day. William Hayes and Chris Long are best friends… they decided to do this together and it changed their lives. With raggedy clothes and eight dollars between them, they set off across St. Louis on foot. No cell phones, no credit cards… just an undercover off-duty cop following them for safety and an ESPN undercover camera crew filming to inspire people to help the homeless. The guys tried their hand at panhandling. They experienced suspicion and derision. They were chased off other homeless people’s turf. Finally, they found an empty cargo truck to sleep in and they darn near froze to death during the night. Both hurt in the morning and said it was the worst night of their lives. But when they were done, they went back and took two homeless people and put them up in a hotel for two months to give them a chance to get back on their feet. Life’s hard lessons were brought home briefly.

Rams DEs William Hayes and Chris Long went undercover to raise awareness of a life
most people ignore. Courtesy of St. Louis Rams

From ESPN:

THE IDEA WAS hatched as the St. Louis Rams’ team bus inched through a rugged part of downtown St. Louis, and, like many of the plans William Hayes and Chris Long come up with, it wasn’t taken very seriously. Hayes and Long are the team’s jokesters, bantering about everything from the existence of mermaids to opening a plus-size yoga studio.

But this conversation was different. From their comfortable seats in the bus, they saw homeless people on the streets, and Hayes turned to Long and asked him if he thought they could handle living like that. Hayes had been moved by the plight of the homeless since his days in Tennessee when he befriended a man who panhandled near the Titans’ practice facility. On the Rams’ bus, Hayes told Long he wanted to experience what it was like to be homeless and asked if Long would join him.

They’d turn in their cell phones and credit cards and wander the streets in sub-40-degree temperatures with no place to go. Long, one of the NFL’s deep thinkers, gave Hayes a funny look at first, but then he said yes.

“I wasn’t going to let him do that alone,” Long says. “I’m sure he wouldn’t let me, either.”

THEY ARE BEST friends with little in common, aside from the fact that they are both enormous 30-year-old men who play defensive end. Chris Long has never wanted for anything. His mother is a retired lawyer and his father is Howie Long, a Hall of Fame defensive end. Shortly after Howie’s career ended, he moved his family from Los Angeles to a 65-acre spread in Virginia because they had the means to live anywhere, and this seemed the most peaceful place to settle in. Chris inherited many of his father’s athletic gifts, dominated in college at the University of Virginia, and was picked second overall in the 2008 draft.

Hayes wasn’t invited to the NFL combine back in ’08, and it was a surprise when the Titans selected the unknown lineman from Winston-Salem State in the fourth round. As his parents scrimped to stay afloat, his childhood was full of nos: No, he couldn’t have the toy he wanted, and no, this bill couldn’t be paid on time. But Hayes had a roof over his head and food in his belly. He was happy. He was showered with love, and never felt as if he was missing anything. It wasn’t until Hayes was older that he realized how much his family really struggled.


For the past several years, the Rams’ defensive line has donated $1,000 for every sack to the St. Patrick Center, a local homeless resource. Long had never visited the center.

Meanwhile, Hayes became a regular. He took a group of teenagers to the movies and played bingo at the Rosati Group Home, St. Patrick’s mental illness facility. This spring, Hayes treated about 15 homeless people to a meal at Golden Corral, an all-you-can-eat buffet.


Long and Hayes took to the streets on the afternoon of March 22, Hayes in floodwater pants too short for his long legs; Long with penciled-in wrinkles around his eyes. Though the forecast called for a fairly mild evening, the temperature dropped into the 30s. Between them, Long and Hayes had $8 in their pockets.

Surprisingly, neither one was recognized, even when they panhandled for money to buy hamburgers just outside the Edward Jones Dome, their home on Sundays. When night fell, they searched for a place to sleep. Long and Hayes found warmth from a fire in a barrel, but were quickly chased off by a scruffy middle-aged man who said they were trespassing on his space.

They came upon an empty box truck and slept in the back. It provided little warmth, and Hayes couldn’t sleep.


They awoke just after 5 a.m. It rained that morning, and Long said he was glad they were able to experience the elements. Hayes wasn’t so enthusiastic. Their experiment lasted about 24 hours. Then they hopped in a van and toured the places they’d gone the day before. When they reached the abandoned warehouse where they’d gone to warm up near the fire, they came upon the man who ran them off the night before. His name is Marty.

Marty ran his own construction business once, but then he split up with his wife, got some DWIs and couldn’t get his driver’s license back. His life unraveled, and he wound up in the warehouse along with a homeless woman named Nancy, whom he was trying to protect.

Hayes and Long were so moved by Marty’s story that they decided to put him and Nancy up in an extended-stay hotel for two months. When Woodie came by to pick them up a couple of days later, Marty was surprised. He said he didn’t think anyone would come back. So many times in their lives, nobody came back.

These are not just famous, professional athletes – these are good men who feel for those around them. They instinctively know that but for the grace of God, there go all of us. So many in America are close to being on the streets because of the economy and what is being done to our country. But you’ll notice in the video that there were several who weren’t just begging – they wanted to work. Given a chance and a hand up, not a hand out, most of these people would happily start over and regain their lives, even at a meager level. There are scam artists out there, but there are far more homeless just trying to survive. Walk a mile in their shoes and remember all charity is local and individual. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be food or work… even a simple kind word goes a long way. Just remember, it’s a dangerous world out there and getting ever more violent. So give, but be vigilant when doing so.

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton is an editor and writer for Right Wing News. She owns and blogs at She is a Constitutional Conservative and NoisyRoom focuses on political and national issues of interest to the American public. Terresa is the editor at Trevor Loudon's site, New Zeal - She also does research at You can email Terresa here. NoisyRoom can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

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