FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers called for a Lyft the day after Super Bowl LII, and in the process lifted the spirits of 46-year-old driver Mary Vilorio with an random act of kindness.
Vilorio, who resides in North Providence, Rhode Island, and has been driving for Uber and Lyft as she searches for a full-time job, was in the Foxborough area late that afternoon when she received a ping from “Derek.” In responding to it, Vilorio was told that he would be paying for the ride, but it was actually for someone else.
“When I got there, he introduced me to a man and explained that he needed to get to Fall River, which was about an hour away. He was just very caring about it, and the two of them were talking about the Bible,” recalled Vilorio. “I didn’t think anything of it, and then when I got in the car, the man started talking about how he was homeless, was struggling with alcohol, and that the person who had just helped him played for the Patriots. I said, ‘Really?’ Then I Googled the name ‘Derek Rivers’ and it was the same person. I was like, ‘OMG!’”
Rivers, who was the Patriots’ top draft pick last year (No. 83, third round) and spent the year on injured reserve with a torn ACL, hadn’t told Vilorio that he was a professional football player.
The ride cost $66 and Rivers added a $35 tip, but it was more than the generous gratuity that made an impression on Vilorio.
It was Rivers’ compassion.
“I learned how people who have a lot of money can be very humble,” Vilorio said, adding that the experience gave her a new perspective on her own situation, which has also been challenging. “You could see his devotion to God because he was talking about the Bible, and said, ‘God bless you.’”
Rivers, through his agent, declined to comment on the story because he didn’t do it for publicity. Last year, when it was learned that Rivers had purchased an extra meal at a dinner to deliver to a homeless person, Rivers later explained the gesture by saying, "We've got to have servant's hearts."
Meanwhile, Vilorio had shared the story with Jobcase, a social media platform where people share work advice and encouragement, and which potentially helps people like Vilorio find full-time employment.
Her biggest takeaway from the experience meeting Rivers, who set the Youngstown State record with 41 career sacks and hasn't had any setbacks in recovering from his knee injury, is straightforward.
“Everyone,” she said, “has an opportunity to be kind.”