Page 2 of 3   <       >

Playoff Advocate Goes Homeless Against the BCS

"I would have loved to have him here, not only for what he did on the field but what he brought to the locker room. He had a smile on his face every day," said Eastern Washington Coach Beau Baldwin, who also coached Kennedy for one year at Central Washington.

While still attending classes, Kennedy wrote a paper about college football's postseason for English class. Then he developed an intense interest in the topic.

Kennedy wrote and revised a plan to change the system, scrawling the text of the proposal on his apartment walls -- his landlord was going to apply new paint once his lease was up anyway -- and compiling more than 160 pages in drafts. He skipped trips to the bars on weekends to research the BCS at the library.

On April 17, Kennedy quit his job organizing and shipping animal food at a warehouse. He worked there for only a month, but his car had been towed and he was tired of the hours-long bus commute each day. And all he dreamed about was the BCS.

Because of his fixation on the topic, Kennedy said, his older brother cut him out of their joint cellphone plan, and he has stopped speaking with his parents. Kennedy described himself as "the black sheep" of the family.

"It's kind of hard," said his sister, Brittany, 19, a guard for the Oregon State women's basketball team. "But everyone comes to live with it."

Speaking about how her older brother might be perceived, she said: "Everyone's going to think he's out there, because there are a lot of people that want to change the BCS. The fact he doesn't have a degree will make it hard for people to take him serious. But that's how some people get started. If you don't try, you don't know how far you could get."

Five days after quitting his job, Kennedy bought a plane ticket for Washington, D.C. He wore a navy pinstripe suit, the only clothes he brought with him on the trip. He had a bag, with a Mickey Mouse blanket and family pictures, and the rosary beads he wears around his neck.

Kennedy had no place to stay, so when he arrived, he looked in the newspapers and identified Georgetown as a safe place to live. But he ruined the suit after sleeping in a ditch, leaving it smelling so bad the stench burned his eyes. He also learned where not to sleep from the local homeless population after overhearing conversation at Miriam's Kitchen, a nearby shelter, about people whose wallets and watches were stolen while they were sleeping in parks.

"There's a difference between the homeless and bums," he said. "I'm homeless, but I'm not a bum."

Kennedy said he recently acquired government food stamps. At church, he met a man named Elijah who bought him new clothes: two pairs of slacks, two button-down shirts and two polo shirts. Kennedy has been washing the clothes and "bird bathing" himself in hand sinks. His grandmother sent him money for a cellphone; he owes $53 at the end of the month and plans to beg for cash if he cannot pay the bill.

"It's actually been very humbling," Kennedy said of living homeless. "It's given me a perspective of life I never thought I would see, being homeless. I've tried to take a positive take on this whole thing. I tell people I'm camping."

<       2        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company