Homeless Temple football recruit who lost high school eligibility is back on team
Jamal Speaks, a D.C.-area high school player, has been sleeping on friends' couches while playing for Ballou High School.
Update: Jamal Speaks' online fundraiser has brought in more than $24,000. Speaks is scheduled to play in Ballou's game on Friday, Sept. 28.
Temple coaches, in the Washington area for Saturday's matchup against Maryland, went to Ballou High School to watch a player they recruited take on Anacostia.
But Jamal Speaks wasn't allowed to play in that game. Why? Because he doesn't have a permanent address.
The Washington Post is reporting that Speaks, an 18-year-old who attends Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy on Ballou High's campus, is caught in a battle between high school athletics governing bodies that have made different rulings on Speaks' eligibility.
Speaks' eligibility is in question because of his homelessness. According to the Post, he's "sleeping on couches at various friends' homes" because his mother is not in his life and his father died.
The running back drew interest from Charlotte, Maryland and Toledo in addition to Temple, but he chose the Owls, announcing his commitment on July 4.
According to recruiting site 24/7 Sports, Speaks was recruited by Temple running backs coach Tony Lucas and outside linebackers coach Larry Knight.
At the time of his commitment, he was reportedly attending and playing football at Dr. Henry Wise High School in his hometown of Upper Marlboro, Md. The Post reported he hadn't played high school football for "nearly two years" because of residency issues when he asked the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association to grant him eligibility. His request was denied.
So he asked another organization — the D.C. State Athletics Association — for permission, and was granted it.
Still, his high school principal didn't want him on the field because of the conflicting rulings. The Post said both the DCIAA and DCSAA claim authority over eligibility decisions.
Speaks did not expect to play in Ballou's first two games because he hadn't reached the minimum amount of practice time. He told the Post that Temple coaches had traveled to see him play in the third game — the one in which he wasn't allowed to participate.
"I worked so hard on and off the field. Have a good GPA, work in the classroom and outside of school," he told the Post. " … I'm homeless. So me just trying to stay in the area to get back and forth from school, it's already tough."
Ballou won the game against Anacostia, 48-0. Late Wednesday afternoon, news came out that Speaks would be eligible to play in the next game. According to the Post, a D.C. council member is trying to help Speaks find housing.
District of Columbia Public Schools also released a statement: "With the best interest of the student and the entire Ballou Knights football team in mind, we are working with DCSAA to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."
NCAA rules prohibit Temple from commenting on recruits who haven't signed letters of intent.