When Houston Texans’ wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scores, he has a tradition more special than any celebratory touchdown dance.
Instead of dabbing or recreating NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” routine, Hopkins finds his mom, Sabrina Greenlee, in the crowd and hands her the touchdown ball — which is exactly what he did in Thursday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
In footage shared on Twitter by ESPN from the TNF game — which the Texans won 20-17 — Hopkins can be seen running the ball out to his mother after he scored near the end of the second quarter. Greenlee triumphantly holds the ball over her head with a giant smile on her face as her son runs back out onto the field.
Getting a chance to touch the ball and share in her son’s victory that way is especially important for Greenlee as she is not able to see the game.
Greenlee was blinded in an acid attack in 2002, when a woman threw a mixture of lye and bleach on her after believing her boyfriend was cheating on her with Greenlee, according to USA Today.
Hopkin’s mom was left for dead at a gas station, but survived after being airlifted to a burn center in Georgia, though she remained in a medically induced coma for several weeks, ESPN reported.
.@DeAndreHopkins' mother, who lost her vision 17 years ago, always sits in the same spot near the end zone at Texans home games.— ESPN (@espn) November 22, 2019
Hop found her after his TD ❤️
“As I’m lying there, the first thing I’m thinking is, ‘Why would someone pour warm water on my face?’” Greenlee told the outlet of the moments right after the attack in a cover story last month. “But a couple of seconds later, I realized it wasn’t warm water, because my skin is literally falling off my face, my neck, my chest and my back.”
Hopkins, now 27, was only 10 years old when his mother was attacked, and told the outlet in October that he “was in shock that somebody could look like that” after he saw what the acid had done to his mother’s appearance.
“It was really scary — and to think that’s my mom, she’s gonna be like that the rest of her life,” he said. “I was hoping that it was a dream.”
While Greenlee is now able to proudly cheer on her son in public, she previously told ESPN that wasn’t the case.
“I knew he wanted me there, but it was really tough,” she said, explaining that she was self-conscious of her injuries. But as Hopkins’ fledgling football career took flight, she “was able to cope with being blind and the scars and the ridicule.”
“And I think it gave me the courage to eventually find myself,” she added.
Greenlee now runs a nonprofit called SMOOOTH (Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing) to “empower, educate and prepare” survivors of domestic violence — and working with the organization has taught Hopkins to “become a man,” he told ESPN.
Greenlee uses voice-activated technology to manage on her own, and despite the loss of her sight, is able to move around her apartment without a cane — and able to attend her son’s football games.
“It goes back to when I got the courage up when he was in junior high,” she said. “I remember him saying, ‘I just want you to be there.’ So if I’m there, and I’m present, and I’m alive … that’s ultimately all he wants. He doesn’t care that I can’t see.”