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Leo Washington, an openly gay football player at Hollywood Hills High School, says he feels welcome among his peers. (CBS4)

Leo Washington, an openly gay football player at Hollywood Hills High School, says he feels welcome among his peers. (CBS4)

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HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – When NBA player Jason Collins announced he was gay, it really hit home at Hollywood Hills High School, especially with the co-captain of the football team, Leo Washington.

“Leo gets on that field, he plays like someone who’s possessed,” said head coach Al Lang. “He’s our best defensive lineman, we’re district champs and he was a big part of that.”

Whether he’s in shoulder pads and a helmet, or walking the field with a Michael Kors bag on his shoulder, Leo knows who he is and has the respect and friendship of his team and classmates.

“This is who I am today, athletic, smart, intelligent, nice and comfortable in my own skin,” said Leo.

Leo’s gay and was ready to give up on high school after his sophomore year when he lived in Georgia.

There, he endured bullying in the halls and with the football team there, he was constantly humiliated.

“I had my own dressing room,” said Leo.  “I had to dress in the girl’s dressing room, it was just that crazy.”

All that changed when Leo’s cousin convinced him to enroll in Hollywood Hills High School.  What he found was a school that celebrates diversity, students who accepted him and a team that embraced him.

“They have taken me in as their own brother and I will protect them from any other school that tries to come at them and disrespect them,” said Leo.

“If anyone were to pick on him,” said teammate Eli Gottlieb.  “We would all have his back. If anyone were to pick on us for anything about us, he would have our back.”

Leo will graduate next month.  But before then, he faces another challenge, a contest against one of his closest friends, co-football captain Griffin Goins – they’re up against each other for prom king.

“Who’s going to win?” asked CBS 4’s Ted Scouten.

“I don’t know,” laughed Leo.

“ I don’t know, “ Goins also laughed, “I’m just here to have a good time.  Whoever comes out on top, I’m just here to have a good time.

Leo has a very bright future in front of him.  He had several opportunities for football scholarships, but he said in college he’s following his other passion. He’s getting a degree in fashion.

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