Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair overcame some hardships in his life to lead a successful career in the NFL — and he reflected on a major one during Tennessee’s match-up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 12.
He was able to share that moment of reflection with an icon he grew up watching — Tampa Bay veteran wide-receiver Mike Evans — on the football field.
Even though the Titans lost 20-6, Al-Shaair got to share a few tender words with Evans in the town in which he grew up.
“Hey bro, I’m from here, born and raised,” the linebacker told Evans, referring to Tampa Bay. “I grew up homeless in my life.”
.@Titans LB Azeez Al-Shaair struggled with homelessness growing up in the Tampa Bay area.
He got the opportunity to tell @MikeEvans13_ that he grew up watching him and reflect on how far he's come. ️ @A_train2_ pic.twitter.com/3scQBesDoK
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2023
The WR appeared to be listening intently as Al-Shaair shared a little of his backstory.
“I swear to God. I’ve been watching you since I was a jit,” he said. “I used to stay under a bridge, bro.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Al-Shaair and his seven siblings experienced homelessness after their grandmother’s house — where they all were living — burned to the ground. The football player went on against all odds and became a standout at Hillsborough High during his junior year before committing to Florida Atlantic.
He became an undrafted free agent and signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. He was the starting linebacker for the Niners going into the 2021 season.
“It’s a big relief to know that I’m still here, that I made it,” Al-Shaair said to the Tampa Bay Times in 2019 after making it through the 49ers roster cuts at the start of the season. “But I don’t want to be just another feel-good story, someone who’s here today, gone tomorrow. I know I have to keep grinding to stick around.”
Evans seemed touched by Al-Shaair’s words in the video captured by NFL films.
“God bless you, bro,” the Super Bowl champion said in return.