After years of activism, reports of physical abuse, and pandemic-related chaos, the NFL hasn’t exactly inspired fans to feel warm and fuzzy towards their players lately, but all of that may have just changed with the kindness of a young college football star who was caught on camera, without his knowledge, doing something that makes us all want to stand up and cheer.
Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis, 22, was in Indianapolis Thursday for the 2022 NFL scouting combine.
The NFL and its sponsors treat their stars right, lavishing gifts upon them and pumping them up with praise.
Willis was leaving a Nike event, carrying a suitcase full of gifted new clothing, when he saw a pregnant homeless woman and her son sitting on the sidewalk.
From across the street, unbeknownst to Willis, a fan pulled out his phone and began recording as Willis stopped in his tracks, opened his suitcase on the street, and began handing the woman several items of clothing and what appears to be a new backpack.
The video, captured and shared on Twitter by Ryan Lacey, has since been viewed more than 3.2 million times.
“Was having lunch yesterday and saw one of the Combine guys helping out someone on some hard times…” tweeted the citizen videographer. “@malikwillis being great even when nobody is watching. How can you not be a fan of this guy?”
Was having lunch yesterday and saw one of the Combine guys helping out someone on some hard times…@malikwillis being great even when nobody is watching. How can you not be a fan of this guy? pic.twitter.com/BmFzUM66NU
— Ryan Lacey (@rlacey23) March 3, 2022
In a world fraught with conflict, inflation, fear, and division, Twitter was grateful to see an act of generosity and was quick to express their support.
Liberty University Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze was bursting with pride, tweeting, “He’s our guy.”
Brett Kollmann stated, “This is the kind of person that Malik Willis is, and anyone who has been around him will tell you that. He doesn’t just talk about his faith and values, he lives by them.”
And Greg Mills said to Willis, “I’ll be cheering for you regardless of which #NFL selects you!” To that, he added the hashtag, “Class.”
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) March 3, 2022
For all those saying this was “staged” hopefully this (volume) provides more context. We were eating in a far corner of the restaurant and couldn’t tell who the player was. Wasn’t until we got closer we saw it was Malik! He is rep’d by a competitor but an awesome guy! pic.twitter.com/pFzmnk0DpS
— Dusty Stanfield (@DStanfieldIAM) March 4, 2022
Other users noted that his actions off the field are a good indication of how he’ll play on the field.
Associated sports editor Aryanna Prasad tweeted, “Anyone in a locker room can tell you: how you treat people off the field influcences how you treat your teammates in tough times. Malik Willis showing leadership, grace, and compassion, even when no one is watching. Can’t wait to watch his NFL journey.”
“This should move this guy towards the top of all boards,” tweeted another user. “Guys who do the right thing off the field, commonly do it on the field. Always looking for these kinds of guys!”
“This is the kinda kid you want on your team,” said another.
Anyone in a locker room can tell you: how you treat people off the field influences how you treat your teammates in tough times.
Malik Willis showing leadership, grace, and compassion, even when no one is watching. Can't wait to watch his NFL journey. https://t.co/PxWyp0ypaS
— The Other AP (@ByAryannaPrasad) March 3, 2022
But it was the prayer of one Twitter user who touched us most: “God please put me on the right path to be able to do this.”
Amen, papembaye. Amen.
God please put me on the right path to be able to do this https://t.co/ZMxRDvrzbc
— papembaye (@papembaye489) March 4, 2022
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