Florida A&M linebacker Willie Ferrell transferred from a major Division I program to tend to his ailing mother, Georgia Mills-Ferrell, who almost had a heart attack last year.
The Tallahassee native attended Ole Miss University in Oxford, Miss., but he immediately transferred to FAMU to be with is mother.
"I did not encourage him to come back," Ferrell's mother said. "God helped him make that decision."
Ferrell said even though his mother is healthy, he and his siblings help out whenever they can.
His mother raised Ferrell in a close-knit family. His father died from a heart attack when he was 2 years old.
Ferrell, the youngest of five, shares the playing field with his brother Jonathon, a third-year psychology student and strong safety. They also played football together at FAMU DRS.
Getting the opportunity to play with his brother again was another reason Willie transferred to FAMU.
"Playing football with him again feels like it did in high school, summer nights you don't want to end because they are so much fun," Jonathon said. "It's refreshing to come in the locker room and have your best friend to laugh with."
His mother raised Willie to be God bearing, respectful and close to his siblings.
"Jonathon and Willie are 16 months apart and have always been close," Ferrell's mother said. "They are like twins."
Jonathon said his brother is "down-to-earth and generous."
"If he only has $3 and you ask for $2, nine times out of 10 you will have your $2," Jonathon said.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound sophomore has been a star athlete since middle school.
Ferrell received his first letter from University of Georgia during his 8th grade year. The next year he was ranked No. 15 in the nation in the MSN Adidas combine camp.
His senior year he played offense and defense at the Offense-Defense All American Bowl Game. He was named All American by: Army/Navy, ESPN, MSN Adidas, Nike and Offense Defense.
By the end of his time at FAMU DRS he captured numerous school titles and broke records. He has an average of 672 tackles in his overall career.
Ferrell acknowledges God for his six-year starting streak.
"He didn't give up on me, so I won't give up on him," Ferrell said.
He has not forgotten where he established himself as an outstanding athlete. He visits his high school three times a week to visit his former head coach, Ira Reynolds.
He credits his brother and Reynolds for helping him balance school and football.
Senior cornerback Qier Hall commended Ferrell for his speed and strong ability to understand the plays.
"He is a solid linebacker who is very mature for a (redshirt) freshman," Hall said. "He is consequently asking questions for improvement."
Head football coach Joe Taylor said he sees great potential in Ferrell.
"It is a blessing to have him on the team," Taylor said. "He is a leader who leads by example."
In honor of his mother, Ferrell said he plans to use his upcoming degree in early childhood education to open several day cares catered to single mothers.
Jonathan's mother said she is proud he considers her one of his heroes.
"It is the most wonderful thing he could say about me," she said. "I thank God for guiding me to be a good mother."
His mother says her heart attack taught her to be a better mother. She also said she has better eating habits. She is now healthy but is on constant watch of her blood pressure.
"I want my kids to carry me to the game when I am unable to walk," she said. "I have always loved FAMU since I was a child. There‘s just something about FAMU."
Ferrell is starting in the Florida Classics against Bethune-Cookman University in Orlando on Saturday.