Darrius Heyward-Bey is in his sixth season with the NFL, but he's never forgotten where he came from. The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver recently returned to his high school with a one-of-a-kind gift -- the chance for student athletes to play under the glow of Friday night lights.
The 27-year-old has paid for his alma mater, the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, to install stadium lighting for its football field. The addition will give students, athletes, and the community a new rush of school spirit with the chance to see various sports teams play night games.
"I had the opportunity when I was 14 to go to school there, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me," Heyward-Bey tells the Good News blog. At the private college-preparatory school, which teaches kindergarten through 12th grade, Heyward-Bey played football, basketball, and track, and broke several school records thanks to his natural athletic talent.
He recalls that his football team only played on Saturdays instead of Friday nights because the school didn't have the funds to put up lights around the field. "I remember I said, 'One day, I wanna bring lights here,'" he recalls. "It's crazy how almost 10 years after, I'm able to give that gift."
Hayward-Bey has made it a priority to help others now that he's in the position to do so. "I came from a single mother household and I like to give back. I'm all about education and the school system," he says. He has donated to both McDonogh and the University of Maryland, and was involved in a program called Dare to Dream that brought middle-school students to college football games to get them excited about continuing their studies. "When they think of college, they think, oh, another four years of school," he says, explaining that the field trip shows kids that college can be an exciting place.
The school will begin constructing the addition to the filed this summer, and the football team will play under the lights for the first time during a game on September 5. "Everybody's excited," he reports.
Heyard-Bey is trying to make arrangements to fly to Baltimore to catch a game, but it's tricky because of his busy schedule. Still, he's happy to have added a bit more flash to a school that helped shape where and who he is today. "I hope student athletes and the parents enjoy it," he says. "If I was still a student there, I'd enjoy that."
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