Hakim Laws strolled up onto the F1 Lot at the Wells Fargo Center with the swagger of a celebrity.
In more ways than are readily apparent, in the city of Philadelphia, he had become one. Two weeks earlier, he became a viral sensation for saying, “My man was just throwing babies out the window, and we was catching them…unlike Agholor,” live on 6ABC news.
The baby in question was one-year-old Kiyyah Darby, who was thrown from the window by her father, Nadir Darby, out of a burning apartment building at 52nd & Girard in West Philly. With only two words and a drooping stare to punctuate them, the clip of Laws spread like wildfire on social media. His soon-to-be catchphrase was aimed at Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who had dropped several passes during the young season.
Laws has been immersed in Philly’s social scene ever since, granting interviews, promoting his official “Unlike Agholor” merchandise line and snapping photos. “It’s been awesome because everyone around me is working and keeping me on a routine. That feels great no matter what,” Laws told PW about his newfound fame. “At first, it was overwhelming. Now, it’s just awesome.”
As he walked the ground of Lincoln Financial Field donning a black hoodie over his newly-released black and green “Philly Catching Babies #UNLIKEAGHOLOR” t-shirt, he could not go more than a few steps without being stopped by an adoring public. The Eagles gifted Laws tickets to their home game against the New York Jets and he hit the tailgate beforehand to keep up appearances. Nadir Darby was in tow, as Laws invited him to what was his first game ever.
The fervor in the parking lot permeated all the way to the 124 section of Lincoln Financial Field where Laws’ seats were. He watched with the passion of a lifelong Eagles fan while taking breaks from cheering to interact with fans. At one point, he helped an older woman go to his website to order one of his shirts. Within days of going viral, Laws enlisted the artistic services of his cousin, Carl Smith, to draw his official logo to go on merch to be sold on the street and online.
A portion of the proceeds from the merchandise is going to the now-displaced Darby family. “I’m very proud of the shirt sales because it could go towards building something bigger,” Laws explained. “I want to do something for the family because without the opportunity they gave me, I wouldn’t have any opportunity at all. For a whole year, I was struggling, trying to find a way.”
The struggle has been real for Laws. At the time of this report, he’s still homeless and looking for a way to sustain himself.
That memorable day had started like any other for him. He woke up in a non-functional car that he sleeps in, then proceeded to the subway station for a cup of coffee. From there, he went to the gym; then to the library, where he uses a computer to research real estate, investing and foreign currency exchange; then to Barnes & Noble, where he reads for hours. Laws makes these trips on foot and covers a lot of ground in the city. At night, he sometimes meanders through West Philly until the sun comes up again.
The navigation skills that Laws demonstrates come from a life spent in Philly. He claims Wynnefield but has an affection for the entire City of Brotherly Love. “No matter where I go, I desire home,” said Laws of the city. “My roots are here. There’s nowhere like Philly. I love Philly.”
Laws credits his training in the United States armed forces for his ability to perform his daily nomadic journey. He said he enlisted in the military after graduating from Lamberton High School in 2000 and said he did two tours in Kuwait, for which he was awarded the Armed Forces Service Medal. “I don’t really agree with the whole war concept and how they handle it, but that’s the way the world has always been,” Laws said. “I don’t have any regrets because the places that I’ve gotten to in life and jobs that I’ve held are partially because of that. It’s beneficial.”
One of those jobs that came in handy was his six years with Engine No. 27 of the Philadelphia Fire Department. He left in February because he says, “At this point, I’d rather not run in and out of fires. You can’t put a price on my life.” Nevertheless, his experience is how he was able to spring into action so quickly and fluently on the scene of the fire. “I’m trained to do it, so it’s my obligation to do it if I know how,” he said. “The motivating force behind it was just hearing someone screaming for their kids in a situation where they’re not OK. That’s everything.”
When emergency vehicles arrived, Laws assisted with setting up the ladders and helped Darby get his family to safety by catching baby Kiyyah and her mother, Kahdejara Benton.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really too confident. It was a spur of the moment thing,” Darby said. “It was my only option. I only had the choice to throw her down to this stranger or let her die in the fire, and I’ll be damned if I let her die in the fire.”
Eight people in total were saved.
Laws watched as the Eagles prevailed over the Jets 31-6 and improved to a 3-2 record. It should be noted that since his viral moment, the Birds have gone 2-0, and Laws hopes they keep this good fortune rolling to the Super Bowl. In the end, Laws wants to use his new platform to help himself “build some work” since the job market is so saturated. “I want to be able to move the way I’ve been moving lately as a person who can affect some type of change and do so in my day-to-day with the help of my friends and family,” he said. “It seems to be working out pretty well thus far.”
SHOW SOME LOVE
Looking to show your love for Hakim Laws? Follow him Instagram at @skydweller215 and Twitter at @HakLaw215. His official website is UnlikeAgholorPhilly.com. The Darby family, who Hakim Laws saved that fateful night, has an official GoFundMe which can be found in the bio of Nadir Darby’s Instagram page at @na.freekali. Ryan K. Smith is a journalist and author. His new book, Getting Free: A Collection of Writings By Ryan K. Smith, can be found where books are sold.