Kam Register was about to put a fork full of pasta salad into his mouth when he peeked down the pathway leading to his backyard. The 18-year-old couldn't believe what he was seeing. A day earlier he had sent a Twitter direct message to Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay, asking if he wanted to come to his graduation party.
Slay responded, asking for details. Register, of course, never actually believed Slay would show up. The two had never met. Their only prior contact came when the Howell (Michigan) High School graduate asked Slay if he was going to go to the Howell-Brighton basketball game earlier this school year.
So Register froze. Dropped his fork. Almost choked.
"I jump up, shake his hand," Register said. "I was literally trying to take pictures and my hands were shaking. It was just the craziest thing."
It wasn't all that crazy, considering Slay often inquires through social media about good local football or basketball games to go to, hunts for people to play video games with and invites athletes to football clinics. This was something different, though.
It was someone's house. It was a graduation party. And it was a completely, totally surprising way to make a high school kid's year.
"I was messing with my family all day, like, 'You can't talk to me, I'm friends with Darius Slay. Darius Slay is coming,'" Register said. "They are like, 'Oh, you're stupid. He's not coming. Don't feel bad if he doesn't show up.'
"Deep down I didn't want to get myself too excited because I didn't want to have all that disappointment if he didn't, but it just made it all worth it when I saw him walk around the pathway."
This wasn't a pop-by visit for Slay to Howell on Saturday, either. Register said Slay stayed for close to three hours, playing basketball with guests out front, playing water pong and offering to take pictures and sign autographs with anyone who requested one. When neighbors heard about what was going on, they showed up, too, to meet the Lions' top cornerback and one of the best defensive backs in the NFL.
Register, who is set to attend nearby Cleary University in the fall, tried to play it cool, but had to ask Slay about the Lions' first-round pick, tight end T.J. Hockenson, and also asked him which receiver has been toughest for him to cover. But after 10 minutes, Register said it wasn't even like there was an NFL player there -- just another friend or family member. Slay linked up with one of Register's cousins for a future XBox video game session, followed Register on Twitter and chatted up his uncle for a long time.
Slay also came with a gift for Register. He gave him signed gloves from the Pro Bowl and offered him tickets to any game he wanted to go to in the 2019 season. Register even FaceTimed Slay's wife to say hello.
Anytime my guy!!!! Game tickets on me just pick a game. I got u an the fam✊🏽 https://t.co/NVCXygmaSE— Darius Slay (@_bigplayslay23) June 22, 2019
And Register learned a valuable lesson, too. While he doesn't know "what possessed me to DM him in the first place," he now knows it never, ever hurts to ask.
"I just shot my shot in the DMs and here we are," Register said. "I'm like, what's the worst he could do, say no?"
Instead, he received one of the most surprising graduation gifts someone could receive -- a home visit from an NFL player just for fun.