Malcolm Hooper has had quite the journey on his way to becoming the Durham College (DC) men’s rugby team captain after his first season, being named an All Star in the OCAA in 2018 and winning at the Speaker Slam “Power of Belief” event in May of 2019.
Hooper has overcome many obstacles, the first being adopted at the age of three. Unfortunately, Hooper’s adoptive parents were not ideal but once he found a stable home, he was able to soar.
“When I would forget my inhaler at hockey, my dad would scream at me and tell me to take off all my equipment and how I was letting him down but also the team down,” said Hooper, “and would make me get into my street clothes and watch the game from the stands.”
One of Hooper’s favourite things to do as a kid was to go to Cadets camp.
Whenever he and his adoptive dad got into an argument, his dad used to clap in Hooper’s face and say: “Four more weeks until we’re on vacation and away from you!”
Everything came to a head after a basketball practice that ran 15 minutes late. The coach wanted to extend practice and Hooper’s teammates, who knew how strict his parents were, told him: “Just stay, what are they going to do? Ground you more?”
When Hooper got home, he found his dad waiting for him. Hooper was dragged up the stairs to his room, and his army cadet duffle bag was thrown in the middle of the room where his dad starting throwing Hooper’s belongings into it.
“He brought my bags downstairs and I just remember sitting there on the bed saying no. He had to grab me by the arm and drag me down the stairs,” Hooper exclaimed.
With nowhere to go, Hooper lived on the streets for three weeks.
“I would go to the rink to watch some games just to pass the time and I would go to the public library, because it was in the rink, and crash on the carpet floor in the back until they closed,” Hooper said.
Hooper still went to school and did not alert any authorities. Nobody knew about his situation because the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) had been called to the home before in the past and he didn’t want them to separate his brother and sister.
“I’m not proud of it, but I used to steal those big bags of chocolate covered almonds and just have them in my backpack and munch on them all day long,” said Hooper.
At basketball practice a few weeks into being homeless, Hooper decided to open up about his situation to some of his trusted friends then started crashing at their houses throughout the week.
One day while talking to his friend Blake Ferguson, Ferguson told Hooper that he should come stay with them.
Hooper knew that when he was invited to his other friends’ for a sleepover, it was a night or two. This was different.
He moved into Blake’s older sister’s bedroom as she was away at school in London.
Tammy Ferguson, Blake’s mom, called Hooper’s mom letting her know that he was there and his adoptive mother just said: “Good luck, he’s an idiot kid, and a troublemaker.”
“I came home to two black garbage bags full of everything he owned,” said Mrs. Ferguson. “He was pretty quiet and it was a lot of ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ to my husband when it came to rules,”
Tammy and her husband Everton took Hooper in and he still lives with them in Orangeville when he’s not at DC for school.
Ferguson remembers one of the first nights Hooper was there, he came and knocked on Tammy and Everton’s door after everybody had gone to bed and was kind of freaked out saying: “Um, I don’t know but I think I broke the internet.” Ferguson then had to tell him: “No, the internet goes down at a certain time because everybody is going to bed.”
Since having a stable home to live in, Hooper has gone on to do extraordinary things.
Hooper is in his final season as captain of the men’s rugby team at Durham College, he has won the MVP award and played one season for the men’s basketball team as well.
In 2019, he delivered what became an award winning speech about his story.
Patrick Lynch, Hooper’s rugby teammate, says Hooper is a great captain on and off the field.
“He keeps us calm on the field at some of the hardest times. Off the field, he inspires the team to work as hard as possible. He works harder than anyone in practice and is always there to help others improve themselves,” Lynch said.
At the end of this year, Hooper will have his police foundations and marketing diploma but still has aspirations of going to play pro rugby.