Homeless Virginia prep lineman honored after leading football team to state title

Somebody get Warner Brothers on the phone, because Isaac Samuel just wrote the sequel to Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher's inspirational rags-to-riches journey told in "The Blind Side," and the Clifton (Va.) Centreville High senior's story is every bit as compelling.

After partying through the first two years of high school, Samuel's discovery of football straightened out a life derailed by his father's incarceration and spent in a homeless shelter, according to a USA TODAY feature announcing his selection as an Army National Guard Inspiration Award winner.

Centreville football coach Chris Haddock's constant pleas to get the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Samuel to come out for the football team paid off in 2012, when he made the junior varsity team as a junior. Not until Samuel started spending every day in the weight room did Haddock discover the teen's plight.

"The way he carries himself with the burden he has is remarkable," Centreville coach Chris Haddock told USA TODAY. "I would be lying if I told you that I haven't shed a tear over him."

According to the feature, Samuel came to the U.S. at age 5 when his parents and five siblings fled Beirut. They reportedly spent the first six months Stateside in Alexandria's government housing, bounced around apartments and ultimately landed at the Katherine K. Family Shelter in Virginia's nearby Fairfax County.

As his father and two older siblings found legal trouble, Samuel likewise turned to drinking, cutting class and other vices to avoid the two sets of bunks reserved for his mother and two younger brothers at the shelter, according to USA TODAY. Ultimately, tired of setting a poor example, he found football.

This past season, he anchored Centreville's defensive line as a senior nose guard during the Wildcats' run to a 15-0 record, the Class 6A state title and a national ranking, capturing All-District honors. As a result, he received interest from Division III schools and has been accepted to North Carolina's Louisburg junior college, according to the paper. Nobody in Samuel's family has ever graduated from college.

“Football really helped turn my life around,” Samuel told The Washington Post during Centreville's state championship run in December. “Life happens. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.

“I saw how negative things almost messed me up, and I realized I need to be a role model for my younger brothers and help out my mom in any way I can. And football has helped me do that.”

Meanwhile, Samuel's teammates helped raise $20,000 for his family, according to WJLA-TV. He reportedly plans to use the money for college. As always, Samuel continues to rewrite the script.

What to Read Next