George Floyd's former teammate wants him remembered as more than a news story
A former teammate of George Floyd is pushing for accountability and calling for justice as he speaks out in remembrance of his friend so the world will know he was more than a news story.
"The lasting memory that I would like of my friend Floyd, Big Floyd, is hopefully not this small moment that the world gets to see based on the images and videos," Jonathan Veal told KWTX Friday.
Veal met Floyd in the sixth grade at James D. Ryan Middle School in the Third Ward community of Houston.
"I was just blown away because I had never seen a 12-year-old that tall," said Veal. "We never referred to him as George, we would always call him 'Floyd' or 'Big Floyd.'"
At 6'2, Veal says Floyd was a gentle giant.
"I want people to know that George Floyd was a caring person, his personality and his heart for others was equal or greater to his physical stature, and he always had a heart to give back," said Veal.
Floyd and Veal played basketball and football together at Jack Yates High School.
They were both on the team that played against the Temple Wildcats in the 1992 5A Division II State Championship at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.
Veal was #42, and Floyd, a tight end, was #88.
"After we graduated, we stopped referring to each other by each other's names and referred to each other and recognized each other by our high school jersey numbers," said Veal.
After both went to their respective colleges, they would only see each other on breaks.
Veal, who now lives in Oklahoma City, said they lost touch for a few years but had since reconnected.
Floyd sent Veal a text on his birthday in January.
"I'm on my way to a Christian program in Minnesota Veal," the text read. "I'm cool but there's a few things I gotta get straight for my 'lil ones. My Faith is getting back where it's supposed to be. I love you big dog, that's straight from 88 to 42."
It was the last time Veal would hear from his friend.
"He signed off by saying, with love, from 88 to 42...and that was a lasting moment right there," said Veal.
On Memorial Day, Veal said he heard an African American man had died in police custody, but he didn't know it was Floyd until the next day when he started getting flooded with messages on social media.
"It was just really, really painful to see this happened once again--but now it's happened to someone that I know," Veal said about realizing it was Floyd who died. "That reality, it just kind of blew me away, I was just shaken with anger and rage that this childhood friend has lost his life in a senseless manner."
Veal says he's hoping the officers involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and justice is served.
"One of my greatest desires as a result of this taking place is that there be a heightened level of accountability within law enforcement, secondly that human life would be valued at a high level and we would treat each other in such a way that this wouldn't happen to anyone else," said Veal. "Also, that not just African Americans, but everyone, if you have breath in your body to breath, you should be able to stand up and speak out against wrong and hateful actions of violence against anyone."