"The school brings that neighborhood hope"

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated December 01, 2020 02:54 PM

The Friendship Collegiate Academy football team doesn’t have a typical practice field. Nicknamed “Friendship Beach,” the sand-and-dirt park is regularly scoured for abandoned needles and weapons. One morning, a dead body was found on the field. The young man had been shot multiple times.

The Washington, D.C., high school team also doesn’t have a home field, a locker room or even enough helmets for all the players. But despite all the odds, the team has prevailed, earning countless college athletic scholarships for its players, many of whom are from a lower-income area.

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According to coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, it’s not unusual for the Ward 7 students to be preyed on by neighborhood gangs. In fact, he notes in an episode of Sports Illustrated‘s Underdogs, many of his players were once a part of them.

“I could have easily been on the street, doing bad stuff, in jail, with my friends, smoking, but this school … next year I have 20 to 25 scholarship offers,” says student Jalen Tabor, now a cornerback for the Florida Gators.

The team, and Abdul-Rahim – who is now an assistant coach at the University of Maryland – are pushing past adversity.

“The school,” says Floriece Gilchrist, whose son Jay played for Friendship Collegiate Academy, “brings that neighborhood hope.”

Watch the full episode of Sports Illustrated‘s Underdogs on PEN, now.