Los Angeles Rams Wide Receiver Robert Woods opens up about his sister, Olivia, and the impact she made on his life.
Prior to any football game, Robert Woods can be spotted in the end zone, kneeling in prayer. Afterwards the Rams wideout rises, stretches his arms up to form a big "O" and then points up to far beyond the sky to his big sister, Olivia.
Though only two years apart in age, Woods always looked up to Olivia. She was his example to follow even after she was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer and throughout the duration of her incredible fight.
During one of their usual brother-sister talks, Olivia randomly offered her brother some advice: "Make sure to be a model."
She repeated herself.
"Make sure to be a model. People are looking up to you."
Being in high school, Woods didn't really understand what she meant. However, as years went by and opportunities arose, Robert began to understand how he could be the role model Olivia predicted he would be.
"As years played out, I saw that I was in positions to be a good leader, a role model," Woods said. "Throughout my whole career, even to come back and to play in my hometown, I think is huge. It's an example of being a model to the young kids, that I grew up in their position."
Woods and his wife, Alexandra, are looking ahead to start a foundation geared to helping children battling cancer. As he detailed the origin of their dream, he shared the memory of his sister's special day with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Taking himself back to that day, Woods smiled. Remembering when the limo came to pick her up to take her on a shopping spree.
"People in those positions, that are battling a fight, a fight for their lives – just to have a day where someone caters and cherishes them, is something that I want to repeat," Woods said.
Olivia was strong. She wouldn't complain. She could do everything herself and she wouldn't want you to treat her any different.
She went to high school, she went to homecoming, she did everything.
"One of the biggest things was just her mindset of how she went through life, attacked her cancer and her treatments," Woods said proudly. "The doctor told her she had only a few months to live and she ended up living multiple years beyond what they even said."
Olivia's influence on her baby brother extends beyond his role as a leader or a professional football player. Every fiber of his life is for her. His focus is to replicate her mentality every day and honor Olivia by allowing her to live through him.
"It's bigger than me," Woods said. "Just being really selfless. I feel like the biggest thing is a lot of people want success for themselves, but in football and even in life – it comes with being selfless. Giving your all when it's not for yourself. I feel like blocking and running clean routes as hard as I can, is setting up stuff for my other teammates, which provides success for the team and myself."
Since 2009, the NFL has raised over $18.5 million for the American Cancer Society. The league, its clubs and players are committed to the fight against cancer as they work to spread cancer awareness through early detection and risk reduction.