Football team from "failing school" makes playoffs Phillips Academy assistant coach Michael Larson left, poses with Phillips Academy player Jamal Brown, 19. Unlike other teams, the Wildcats must lug their helmets and pads to a city park to practice because they have no field of their own (AP photos)
Football team from "failing school" makes playoffs
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The Phillips Academy Wildcats must lug their helmets and pads nearly a mile. They go to a South Side Chicago city park to practice. They have no football field of their own.

A former gang member-turned-star safety, Jamal Brown, sleeps at the assistant coach's house. He and six other teammates fit the school system's technical definition of homeless. That's because they don't live with either parent.

The city's first all-black high school already has made history. It became the first team from the embattled public school system to advance to the state finals in 32 years.

"Football isn't as hard as our everyday lives," said Brown. He is the 19-year-old former dropout and gang member. Now he's headed to college on a football scholarship. "You'll have to break our legs to make us stop coming."

The school has students from a range of violent South Side neighborhoods. One of the team's seniors was even shot in the ankle as a freshman in a drive-by shooting.

The 600-student academy was deemed a "failing" school four years ago. That led city officials to replace much of the school's staff. Today, 90 percent of its students go on to college, its website says.

The football coaches won't allow the Wildcats to dwell on disadvantages. It's one of many public schools that must share a home stadium in another part of the city.

"There are 100 reasons. But in the end they're excuses," head coach Troy McAllister said. "We don't want any excuses."

The team knew it was for real early in the season. It crushed a far better outfitted team from a 3,000-student high school in a suburb west of Chicago. The score was 40-7.

The biggest challenges for the Wildcats are the ones some have faced individually. Seven don't live with parents or legal guardians. But their teammates have rallied around them.

"We say to parents, 'You are going to send us a boy and we are going to send back a young man,'" McAllister said.

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COMMENTS (11)
  • BeccaT27
    12/08/2014 - 01:07 p.m.

    jamal is a football player and was a gang memeber and a school dropout. the school he attended was a falling school.so the tried to put new staff in the school. after they did that the kids started to go to collage even jamal. one of his games was 40-7 in football. it is crazy that his school was a falling school but he still made it and now has a football scholarship.

  • pat19-Bla
    12/08/2014 - 02:43 p.m.

    that is amazing.crazy how every team can come back like that and is now in the playoffs.calling them failing school is harsh and mean.

  • freddyh-Ewi
    12/15/2014 - 03:53 p.m.

    its about a school in Chicago that the students are failing. the school was failing and they were a 4 year failing school. some of the students were gang members. most of them were homeless

  • JaleecaC-Ewi
    12/16/2014 - 10:29 a.m.

    a collage student name Jamal Brown .he goes to the Phillips academy wildcats. on December the 8th 2014.in Chicago Jamal's school was failing but they did win the football game and Jamal got a scholarship

  • cameronb-Ewi
    12/16/2014 - 10:29 a.m.

    who was homeless? Jamal brown was homeless.
    what was the score at west Chicago? 40-7.
    when did Jamal joined the football team? December 8, 2014.
    where was the violent neighborhood was located? south side.
    why did Jamal joined the team? so he could get a football scholarship and graduate.

  • CooperG-Mau
    12/17/2014 - 11:23 a.m.

    I can't believe that the Wildcats beat that team 40-7.Thats amazing they did that.

  • ivettc-Ewi
    12/17/2014 - 03:33 p.m.

    Who- Jamal Brown sleeps in his coaches house because he doesn't live with his parents.
    What- They are football player's playing in a park because they don't have a football field of there own.
    When-December 8 2014
    Where-South side Chicago city
    Why-They need a scholarship for football.but they got one after that.

  • lorenzoh-Ewi
    12/17/2014 - 03:33 p.m.

    Its really hard for poeple that lives in the hood to have a really good life.....But there is people out there that is homeless and plays football. But they are really good player and he try's "hard' not to let the team down

  • ivettc-Ewi
    12/17/2014 - 03:33 p.m.

    Who- Jamal Brown sleeps in his coaches house because he doesn't live with his parents.
    What- They are football player's playing in a park because they don't have a football field of there own.
    When-December 8 2014
    Where-South side Chicago city
    Why-They need a scholarship for football.but they got one after that.

  • TBryan-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:44 a.m.

    I think its Stupid that a former gang member and dropout has a football scholarship to play college ball. Don't get me wrong he was raised in a ghetto neighborhood with no parents, everyone deserves a chance.

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