Teen sidelined for being homeless takes field again


(ABC NEWS)- A formerly homeless high school football star who was banned from playing the sport he loves for nearly two years made a triumphant return to the field this season thanks to the support of his community.


“It’s a blessing to be in this uniform again,” Jamal Speaks, 18, a high school senior from Washington, D.C., told local ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV. “I just want to play ball.”


Speaks was sidelined from taking the field because he was declared ineligible, all because he didn’t have a permanent home address.


He had been living at local youth shelters.


Then, in a dramatic show of love and support, his teammates staged a 45-minute protest, refusing to take the field without Speaks.


Online, a local city councilman set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the homeless youth. It has garnered nearly $25,000, well above its initial goal of $5,000.


“Sometimes what we think is a negative situation, God turn out to be, make it to be a good situation,” Council member Trayon White told WJLA-TV.


One community member, Kathy Weathorford, was so inspired by Speaks’ story that she donated $10,000 to the fund.


“I wanted to do something that would really help him get to where he wanted to go,” Weathorford told WJLA-TV.


Shortly after the dramatic show of public support, local school officials amended Speaks’ eligibility to play football.


Meanwhile, Speaks said he is touched by his community’s outpouring of support.


“I love y’all. Thank you all so much,” he said. “I just want to say that from the bottom of my heart.”


Speaks also said he has received offers from several schools to play football next year.

Daniella Hankey

Good Morning West Virginia! Daniella Hankey is the Morning and Noon newscast Anchor. Daniella joined Newswatch as a Multi-Media journalist and quickly moved her way up to an Anchor. Before landing in the beautiful Mountain State, Daniella called her home Orlando, Florida. Armed with a major in Communications and Media Studies and a minor in Education, Daniella relocated to further her career. During her time at Stetson, she covered several big stories on and off campus including the June 2016 Pulse Night Club shooting and Hurricane Matthew. She worked as a news anchor and reporter for her college news station and enjoyed an internship in productions at PBS. Her love for journalism started in high school when she was selected as a Bright House Varsity Reporter as well as the school anchor. When Daniella is not working, you can find her exploring West Virginia especially the Greenbrier and engaging with community members. As a morning anchor, Daniella loves putting a smile on viewers faces in the morning and informing them of community events. If you have any story ideas or news tips, please email Daniella at You can also follow Daniella on Facebook at DaniellaHankeyTV.