Full Video: St. Louis Rams players help the homeless they met during experiment

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Two St. Louis Rams players went undercover to see what it is like to be homeless. They say the experience changed their lives. William Hayes and Chris Long went back to change the lives of the homeless people they met.

It started as a question from Rams Defensive End William Hayes to Chris Long as their bus pulled into a rough part of St. Louis. “What is it like to be homeless?” The answer led the two to spend time in sub-40-degree temperatures without cell phones or credit cards.

ESPN featured video of the Rams player’s experience this Sunday during SportsCenter. Long and Hayes went undercover. They put on makeup, hats and second-hand clothing to avoid being recognized. They also wore hidden cameras and were followed by an ESPN crew and an off-duty police officer.

Neither of the players was recognized while they panhandled for money outside the Edward Jones Dome. Day shifted to night and they tried to find someplace warm. A homeless man ran them off from a fire. Then Hayes and Long tried to sleep in the back of an empty box truck. It was very cold.

William Hayes tells ESPN:

“I wasn’t scared,” he says, “but it was more so the idea of not knowing the next move. I’m trying to close my eyes. We have a security guard with us, but he was like, ‘If somebody really wanted to come in here to lift this thing up to shoot all of us and rob us, they could easily do it.’

The entire experiment lasted just 24 hours. Then William Hayes and Chris Long got into a van to talk to the homeless people they met over the last day.

A man named Marty ran them off from a fire the night before. He told the football players his story about becoming homeless. He says he once ran a construction business. A split with his wife led his life unraveling. He wound up a the warehouse along with a homeless woman named Nancy.

The Rams players were so moved by Marty’s story that they decided to put him and Nancy up in an extended-stay hotel for two months. According to ESPN Marty has recently gotten some work in construction and Nancy received help through outreach support.

Hayes tells ESPN that he didn’t originally want cameras to follow them during the experiment. The St. Patrick Center in St. Louis encouraged him to use their experience to raise awareness of homelessness.

Both players tell ESPN that the experience changed their lives. Hayes hated the way people judged him by the way he looked.

“It’s amazing though when that cop went to talk to me, just how unsettled that felt, compared to like if a cop normally talks to me walking down the street.” –Chris Long.

Long used to write checks to the St. Patrick’s Center. Now he says he will be stopping in more often.