William Hayes: Making a Difference One Foundation at a Time

Interviewed By: Najee Person Written By: Dominique Shields

Recently, St. Louis Rams defensive end, William Hayes, has been making a difference and giving back for a cause that he’s passionate about. What is that cause? Homelessness. William has been working to do what he can with the St. Louis Rams to help out. But that wasn’t enough for him. He decided to take a step further and formed the Big Play Hayes Foundation: Leading with Heart. William has multiple programs with the goal to make a dent in the homelessness issue with the inner-city youth. On the Money had a chance to sit down with William to dig deeper on his giving back to the community:

On The Money: What made you want to start a foundation of this kind?

William Hayes: Just to help people.  I just like to see people become better people. That’s what I’m about. I wasn’t put on this earth to play football, I was put on this earth to try and help make a difference. Everyday, it’s a continuous grind. When I go home, I continuously brainstorm and come up with ideas to try and do something different.

"I can’t change the world, I just want to put a dent in it."

OTM: What is the purpose and goal of your foundation?

William: To build up the inner-city youth and change their mentality. Right now we’re in the stage where  we are...I don’t want to say ignorant, but it’s getting to that point. I don’t think we’re ignorant because we want to be, I just think we don’t know the truth of how to act as a culture. These days people think it’s more cool to listen to rap music rather than do their homework.

OTM: How is your foundation funded?

William: Right now it’s self-funded. I’m paying for everything.I’m going to start taking donations and putting together charity events to raise money. But right now it’s self-funded.

OTM: How many other subprograms: like “Hanging with Hayes”, do you have?

William: I have like three or four. In North Carolina [there’s] Right Track, [which offers help to] a kid who has a felony or a misdemeanor. [Right Track] helps to get their record expunged or their charges brought down. I know a lot of times kids don’t get too many second chances. They get one charge and their life is over. So the goal for that program is for me to at least be able to give you a second chance. I have several other programs that I’m working on now. I’m starting a program this off-season with schools here [in St. Louis] and in North Carolina with troubled kids. I talk to them and take them out somewhere for the day. I’m just trying to keep a movement going.  

OTM: Can you briefly tell me what a day in Hanging with Hayes is like?

William: With the Covenant House so far, I let them figure out an event or activity they want to do. I don’t really care what it is. I just chill with them, and get a chance to talk to them and fellowship with them.  I think the coolest thing is you can sit down with people and let them vent, and you can vent to them. One thing I realize is if you genuinely want a true answer, you go to the people with the most humbling hearts. When you have someone who’s trying to do better, or has been in a position where they had nothing, I honestly think that they will have a more genuine answer because they will feel like there is nothing that you can get from them.  But I enjoy that the most, like when we went to the movies, just sitting there and getting a chance to talk to people. Just hearing things that people have been through, that humbles me more than anything. I remember the first time we did the Hanging with Hayes thing, we went paint balling. Before we actually started paint balling we talked for like 45 minutes. It was amazing. I was thinking  I had it bad because I would wake up sore from a game, but then you hear somebody say,

“I had to sneak in somebody's garage and sleep in there for like 3 or 4 months”. She was like 12 or 13, and all I could think is, ‘That could be my daughter’.

When I hear stuff like that it humbles me because it’s like you think you got it bad until you hear what somebody else went through.  

Watch Rams defensive ends William Hayes and Chris Long raise awareness for homelessness by spending 24 hours on the streets of St. Louis.

OTM: What would be some financial advice you would give your younger self, or someone that’s coming up?

William: When you’re trying to get a business from the ground or when you’re trying to build your own brand you have to make sure you’re always different but still giving people what they want and what needs to be heard. You can’t go against the trend, you have to strengthen the trend. When it comes to marketing yourself you have to have that grind, a never ending grind. I was always the guy in school who would try to work harder and go the extra mile just to try and build my brand. That’s what you have to do to truly be successful.

As you can see, this is a man who’s passionate about making a difference.  We are excited to see just what William Hayes is planning next.