In 2001, Sabrina Greenlee lost her vision when a stranger threw acid at her amid an altercation with her boyfriend. Greenlee was both blinded and disfigured from the incident. At the time, she was a struggling single mother of four in South Carolina and had endured several abusive relationships. Now her son, NFL star DeAndre Hopkins, pays her a sweet tribute every touchdown he scores.

According to Marca, Hopkins delivers the ball to Greenlee in the stands after every touchdown. A picture of the wide receiver doing so recently went viral on social media. In it, Greenlee touches the ball and her son’s hand, mouth agape.

In 2019, Hopkins and Greenlee opened up to ESPN about what she endured and how it impacted Hopkins’ career. 

“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,” Greenlee said. “That ball symbolizes so much more than people ever could understand.”

In a video interview, Hopkins explained that he could extend her that grace because he understood that she had been through significant hardships in her life.

“My mom, she overcame a lot to raise us how she raised us; she’s been there for me like a friend,” he said.

Of the incident, Greenlee explained that she got into an argument with her boyfriend outside of the home of the woman he was having an affair with. Things escalated when she inserted herself into the turmoil.

“The young lady comes out and she has a concoction in her hands of liquid red devil lye mixed with Clorox and she dashes this on me,” she recounted to ESPN.

Greenlee said she thought it was “warm water” at first but quickly knew otherwise when she saw her skin start to fall off.

“A couple of seconds later, I realize that it wasn’t warm water because my skin is literally falling off of my face, my neck, my chest and my back,” she said.

Greenlee was rushed to the hospital and later airlifted to a burn center. There, doctors placed her in a medically induced coma.

“After a month, I finally come out of the coma, but I’m totally blind,” Greenlee said.

For Hopkins, the whole ordeal was harrowing.

“I was just in shock that somebody looked like that,” he said of seeing his mother’s appearance for the first time after the attack. “It was scary honestly.”

But it didn’t derail his life. Greenlee said that years later, Hopkins told her the pain inspired him to reach new heights in his career.

“He said, ‘I didn’t want what happened to you to happen, but because it did happen, it motivated me,” she shared.

Greenlee has been with Hopkins every step of his career, including the 2013 NFL Draft, where the Houston Texans picked him up. Now he plays for the Tennessee Titans, whom he joined in July, where he’s made a memorable start.

“He doesn’t care that I can’t see. He just wants me there,” Greenlee said.

Hopkins explained that after every touchdown, he delivers the ball to his mother so that she can “feel him.”

“Just seeing her happy,” Hopkins said of the motivation behind his touchdown tradition, “that’s the best feeling in the world.”

According to ESPN, Savannah Grant, the acid attack’s perpetrator, was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill and sentenced to 20 years in prison.