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9-year-old hockey player breaking barriers on screen and the ice

Keivonn Woodward first gained the spotlight as his hockey team's first Black, Deaf player. Now, he's in HBO's spotlight on the new show "The Last of Us."

BOWIE, Md. — A 9-year-old hockey player first gained the spotlight in Bowie as the team's only Black, Deaf hockey player. Now, that spotlight has followed him to Hollywood -- where he's guest starring in HBO's The Last of Us.

And Hollywood is how Keivonn Woodard's teammates know him.

"[We] gave him a nickname -- Hollywood -- a couple of weeks ago, just because when he scores a goal, everybody knows because he likes to celebrate," his coach, Chris Pozerski, said.

That's why it was no surprise to them when he told his team he would soon be starring in HBO's new hit show The Last of Us.

But, it was to Keivonn.

“I’m feeling shocked, honestly," Keivonn said. "Can’t believe I made it into a show.”

He may not be able to fully hear the praise, but he can definitely feel it.

“I enjoyed it a lot," he said.

   

He and his mom just got back from the show's premiere in Los Angeles.

“For a Black deaf family, sixth generation, that's huge," Keivonn's mom, April Jackson-Woodard said.

Many of those deaf relatives are actors themselves, April said, including her.

“I had a major in acting, and I really hit a lot of barriers being deaf, Black," she said. "That's not what they were looking for.”

Landing this role is just another goal for her son -- as he's helping to break those barriers.

“It's overwhelming," April said.

While Keivonn may be one of The Last of Us on screen, he wants to be a first on the ice.

“I want to become the first Black deaf hockey player," he said.

He means in the National Hockey League, too. Keivonn has been playing since he was 4 years old, after all.

His coach said he's on his way.

“His talent, you know, for a kid his age is something that as a coach is fantastic.”

His teammates have his back, too.

“Some of the kids are learning sign language to try to help him, or they just want to communicate more, and it's inspiring to see" Coach Pozerski said. "I mean, these are 9 and 10-year-olds that just want to include him in everything, and Keivonn just wants to play.”

The team even developed a light system that helps him understand plays and referee calls during the game without his interpreter.

"It really showed to me individually was just, it is accessible. Like, this is a great game, and everybody should get the opportunity to play it," Pozerski said. "Just because you may be deaf, or have something else that might restrict you in other facets of life, it's not going to out here, and we'll do everything we can to be as inclusive as possible for that."

“He really has the passion to drive him to say 'I can do it.' So I'm inspired," April said.

Others will be, too, once Hollywood makes his debut.

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