NFL Star DeAndre Hopkins Recalls 'Shock' He Felt Seeing His Mom's Face After Acid Attack


DeAndre Hopkins, a wide receiver for the Houston Texans, hasn’t had the easiest life. He grew up without a father, as his own died when he was just a baby.

As the years passed and Hopkins developed athletic talent, his mother suffered a devastating attack that could have easily claimed her life. At the time, DeAndre was just 10 years old.

It was July 20, 2002, when a jealous girlfriend of the man Sabrina Greenlee had been seeing approached her with a caustic mixture of bleach and lye.

The man had borrowed Greenlee’s car, and when she went to pick it up, the angry girlfriend threw the acid at her.

At first, Greenlee was just confused.

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“And as I’m lying there, the first thing I’m thinking is, ‘Why would someone pour warm water on my face?'” she told ESPN. “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.”

She was rushed to a nearby gas station, where water was poured over the affected areas of her body. She kept going unconscious, and at one point realized she’d been left alone and wondered if she’d been left to die.

Eventually, she was taken to the hospital where one of her daughters, Kesha, was appalled by what she saw.

“She’s really light-skinned, but the entire right side of her face was black,” Kesha said, according to ESPN.

“Having her taken away temporarily like that, it was hard,” Hopkins said. “You don’t really know what your next day is, or what you’re gonna do … because you feel like you’re all alone in the world without your mom or dad.”

Greenlee woke up weeks later after being airlifted to a burn center, but her own daughter recoiled at the sight of her, which depressed Greenlee even more.

Her appearance was distressing, and Hopkins admitted it was hard to accept.

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“I was in shock that somebody could look like that,” the former Clemson star told ESPN. “It was really scary — and to think that’s my mom, she’s gonna be like that the rest of her life. I was hoping that it was a dream.”

For a long time, even after going back home, Greenlee had a hard time readjusting. She felt the burden of being the sole income earner for her children and fell into a deep depression.

She drank, sold drugs to try to earn money for her family and stayed indoors. Meanwhile, Hopkins was starting to play and desperately wanted his mother present.

“I knew he wanted me there, but it was really tough,” Greenlee admitted.

Eventually, though, she realized that attending his games meant she could focus on her son and her mind wouldn’t be on her own troubles.

“I was able to cope with being blind and the scars and the ridicule,” Greenlee said. “And I think it gave me the courage to eventually find myself.”

While she could see on and off over the years, a few years back she permanently lost her eyesight, which means she has to rely on her memories of her son’s movements, her other senses and her daughters, who often attend games and relay everything to her as it happens.

“I visualize everything that he does. The dreads, the body movement,” she said.

“The commentator’s talking is not enough — she wants to know what kind of route he ran,” Kesha explained. “‘Did he catch it?’ ‘No.’ ‘Why didn’t he catch it?’ ‘I don’t know, Mom.'”

Greenlee is able to appreciate the games now, though she hasn’t been able to see her son play since he became a big name. Still, she supports and loves him and appreciates that he loves and respects her.

“I’ve not always been your typical role-model mother, and he still respects me enough to let everybody see him give me that ball,” she said. “That ball symbolizes so much more than people ever could understand.”

Greenlee has also used her struggles to help other women who find themselves in abusive situations and is a motivational speaker. In 2013, she created SMOOOTH Inc., which stands for “Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing.”

“Sabrina’s intentions were not to become a motivational speaker,” her Facebook page reads. “However, due to multiple tragic life events, such as being a rape victim, losing two brothers — one of whom died because of a domestic dispute, and losing a fiancé, she finds herself in a position to empower others.”

“I want to tell [them] … you don’t have to stay there,” Greenlee said. “I’ll help you get out of this, just listen to me. Just follow my lead. I’m telling you: There is light after darkness.”

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