Well this is not only a very, very nice thing for the guy to do, but it also eases some worries I had about the severity of his injury. With him not there, I assumed it was a very bad problem with his knee, not that he was out in Africa giving three kids a better life.
For most of his short time as a St. Louis Ram, center Scott Wells has been a man of mystery.
Just a couple of days into the spring practice period in mid-May, Wells wasn't on the field. When he returned, he was a spectator with his right knee wrapped.
Turned out he had undergone surgery on the knee, but it was described as a routine procedure and indications were he wouldn't be sidelined for long. But at the full-squad minicamp in mid-June — the last team activity heading into a six-week break — Wells was gone again.
Coach Jeff Fisher would only say that Wells was excused for personal reasons. So where was he?
Turns out, Wells was in Africa — Uganda to be exact — with his wife Julie to adopt two children. Well, they went there to adopt two children, they ended up with three.
A confidentiality agreement with the orphanage in Uganda prevented Wells from speaking publicly on the topic during the lengthy adoption process. And it was only after his wife returned home from Uganda a week ago with new daughter Caroline (age 5) and new sons R.J. (2) and Elijah (3) that Wells felt comfortable talking about the exhausting yet exhilarating experience.
"We've always wanted a large family," Wells said, "And about six years ago we lost twin boys on Thanksgiving Day — they were stillborn. And since that moment, we kind of started talking about adopting.
"We had a lot of friends adopt, and it kind of seemed like it was something God was pushing us towards. The school my (biological) kids attend in Nashville, there's a lot of adoptions at that school. We'd started talking about it, we'd read a couple of books on it, and then we said, 'Well, that's something we'd like to do some day.'
"And then it was almost like everywhere we turned there was somebody who had adopted. I felt like God was really hitting me in the face with it. So once we had our last child, we got serious about it."
Wells and his wife have three biological children: Jackson (8), Lola (5) and Kingston (2). So the newly expanded lineup gives them four boys and two girls.
The process started with Wells and his wife researching different countries. They chose Uganda, in part because they had friends who had adopted children from Uganda.
"To us, and talking to people who have done mission work over there and have adopted over there, the need was great," Wells said. "HIV's huge over there, malaria, tuberculosis. The life expectancy's not great; it's very low. The majority of the population's young because people don't live to be old. So we really just felt ... that's where we were being led."
About a year and a half ago, long before Wells had any inkling he'd be a Ram, he and his wife began the application process. Ideally, they wanted either a boy and a girl, or two boys — with both children age 3 or less.
"My wife contacted several orphanages and explained kind of our story, and our life situation," Wells said. "We had one contact us back and say we've got two children we think would be great for you, and the paired us up with two boys."
About two months later, they heard from the orphanage again. Turns out the 2-year-old (R.J.) had a sister (Caroline). What to do?
"We decided to keep the brother and sister together," Wells said. "I said, 'What's the difference between five and six kids?' "
For fear of infection, Wells waited until the sutures were out and the wound closed from the knee surgery before he and his wife left for Africa on June 13. Uganda is not one of the nations that follow the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption, which complicated the process.
"There's a lot of corruption that you're fighting," Wells said. "Going into it we were really trying to keep quiet what I did for a living; how much finances we had or whatever. There's a little bit of that you have to disclose for the courts. They want to make sure you're financially responsible, that you can handle the children you're wanting to adopt."
Wells signed a four-year, $24 million free-agent deal with the Rams in March, after spending his first eight NFL seasons with Green Bay.
"The key was to go in there as quietly as possible," Wells said. "I had to sign a contract with the orphanage saying I wouldn't discuss it via Twitter, Facebook, the media. Basically, I had to keep everything hush-hush until it was finalized. That's why Coach (Fisher) did an outstanding job of helping me keep it quiet. Because I had to tell (the Rams) so I could get permission to go."
Wells was in Uganda for a month, returning to the U.S. on July 13 so he could get ready for camp. His wife was there for 2½ months.
"The (orphanage) home we went through, they refused to pay any bribes," Wells said. "It's one of the older orphanages, and the woman who runs it is really trying to do it the straight and narrow way. So it was an uphill battle because there's a lot of places that would rather just pay the bribe — and they refused to. So that was important to us, but it also made it a longer process."
While the process unfolded, Wells and his wife got to know the family additions. They spent time with them every day, but the children had to be back at the orphanage at night. To help with the acclimation process, a Wells photo album was sent to Uganda about nine months before their arrival. So when Wells and his wife arrived in Uganda, the prospective new members of the family recognized them.
"The 3-year-old (Elijah) warmed up immediately," Wells said. "As soon as we got to the orphanage, he ran up and wanted a hug ... put his arms out and he said, 'Daddy.' "
Just like that, the heart of a rough, tough, 300-pound Pro Bowl offensive lineman melted.
"Oh absolutely," Wells aid.
The first gathering of the newly expanded Wells family took place a week ago in Nashville, their permanent residence. (The entire family will move to St. Louis soon for the football season.)
Since Wells wasn't going to play last week against Kansas City, Fisher let him return home for a day — one of the most memorable days of his life.
"That was right up there — all time," Wells said. "One, seeing my biological childrens' reaction to seeing their mother again after not seeing her for 10 weeks. ... My 8-year old (Jackson) broke down immediately. It was pretty special."
The bonus was seeing how his biological kids responded to seeing their new brothers and sister for the first time.
"My 8-year old, immediately he had a big smile on his face when he saw them," Wells said. "He's wanting to help out with the boys.
"Seeing my 5-year old daughter (Lola) really take to the girl we had adopted and holding her hand, showing her around, and when we got home immediately going to her bedroom, playing dress up. Just seeing my 2-year-old (Kingston) taking the other two up to his room and showing them everything."
Wells obviously couldn't work with the Rams' athletic training staff during his time in Uganda, but he doesn't think the trip slowed the recovery from knee surgery. He took all kinds of rehab equipment with him and did his rehab work at night once the kids were back at the orphanage. He also took the Rams' playbook with him, via iPad, and reviewed it every night.
An unexpected hurdle cropped up when Wells was slowed by illness — a bug he thinks he picked up from eating something there.
"I got a little parasite," Wells said. "It didn't slow down the rehab as much as it just was a pain. I lost a little bit (of weight), but I've gained it all back."
Wells never had knee problems in Green Bay, but the knee flared up in an early practice session with Rams and surgery followed.
"It wasn't a major procedure," said Wells, whose preseason debut was Saturday night against Dallas. "It was just a basic go and clean it up, remove any cartilage or whatever."
And that's where the mystery began.