Sandra Hill, the mother of Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, died Friday morning.
Hill had battled breast cancer for years, and Williams has been at the forefront of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign. He is credited with convincing the NFL to allow players to wear pink in October for breast cancer awareness month.
Williams has said that his four aunts, Hill’s sisters, have all died of cancer. He said his mother is the only one of the five to live past 50.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he told Williams to take all the time he needs as the Panthers participate in voluntary offseason workouts.
Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season, was an edge rusher for the Tigers while Ealy was a defensive end. On Saturday, Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL.
“Congratulations to him. That’s my teammate, my brother,” Ealy said. “I know now he can put a lot behind him and focus on his career.”
Sam will be the focus on a documentary series by the Oprah Winfrey Network, chronicling his path to make it as the first openly gay NFL player to play in a game. Ealy said he didn’t know much about the show, or why Sam, who was projected to be a mid- to late-round pick, was taken in the final picks of the seventh round.
“I never put my mindset toward stuff like that because at the last moment – like me, I got picked at 60,” Ealy said. “I didn’t plan to be there that long, but that’s out of my control. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, well, what if this happens?’ No, just let the course take its path.”