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Ex-football star sponsors 500 mammograms to honor mom who died of breast cancer

TODAY logo TODAY 10/9/2019 Molly Blake
a close up of DeAngelo Williams © Twitter/NFL.com DeAngelo Williams

Former NFL running back DeAngelo Williams is still dedicated to fighting breast cancer.

Williams, who played for the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers, started covering the cost of mammogram screening for women in 2015 through his nonprofit organization, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation.

Since then, the foundation has covered the cost of over 500 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh, Memphis, Jonesboro, Ark., and Charlotte, N.C.

Williams is a staunch supporter of breast cancer awareness. In 2014, his mother Sandra Hill died from breast cancer when she was just 53. Williams also lost his four aunts to the disease, all before the age of 50.

Williams began sponsoring the free mammogram screening in honor of his mother through the "53 Strong for Sandra" program. At each event, the foundation sponsors mammograms for 53 women. The foundation eventually hopes to host a free mammogram screening event in every state.

"To be able to help all these women is amazing. This can be life-changing for these women," Williams said in a statement to TODAY. "We are enabling them to get this care that no one should ever be denied or not have access to."

"DeAngelo wants to ensure that no woman (or man) fights breast cancer alone," Risalyn Williams, his wife and executive director of The DeAngelo Williams Foundation, told TODAY via email.

Williams was key in leading a push in 2009 to allow NFL players to wear pink cleats throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. At the time football fans were treated to fields of pink — pink headphones, pink cleats and pink pom poms — during October breast cancer awareness month. In 2015, Williams asked the NFL to allow him to wear pink on his uniform all year, but the league declined.

In recent years, the NFL's partnership with the American Cancer Society has broadened its focus to prevention and early detection of several cancers, including breast cancer, with the "Crucial Catch" program.

Gallery: 6 Cancers on the Rise in Older Adults, Including Breast Cancer (Insider)

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