Martinous, a local 16-year-old high school student, has struggled with bullying and has gone through most of his life without his father. He's been raised by his mother, as his father was incarcerated throughout most Martinous' life and then was murdered only a year after being released from prison.
Peers have bullied Martinous, making him feel like he doesn't act "man enough" because he hasn't had a father in his life.
Similarly, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' father was absent from his life and throughout school he struggled with a learning disability that made him feel ashamed. Charles was raised predominantly by his grandparents, while his mother was continually busy working.
Charles grew up in a high crime neighborhood where many of his friends and relatives went down the wrong path and attempted to have him follow in their footsteps. However, Charles turned to football and running and focused on his dream of playing in the NFL.
For Martinous, he turned to spoken word poetry as a way to express his emotions and use as an escape.
Through the Characters Unite program, in which NFL stars connect with young people on a deeper level, Martinous was able to meet Charles.
Jamaal Charles meets with the Martinous family on the field before the Dec. 28, 2014 home game against the San Diego Chargers.
Charles explained to Martinous that expressing emotions is positive and that the absence of his father doesn't need to stand in his way. He encouraged Martinous to pursue his passion of spoken word poetry, introducing him to local celebrated poets from the Kansas City Young Audiences program and challenging him to find the confidence to perform in front of an audience at the stadium.
During the season, Martinous performed his poetry at Arrowhead Stadium in front of an amazed crowd. Following the performance, Charles presented Martinous with a scholarship to the Kansas City Young Audiences program to continue to work on his poetry. It is a gift he will never forget and a lesson learned on what it truly means to be a man.
Martinous attended the final game of the season, where he was not only reunited with Charles, but was hosted by members of the Hunt family during pregame festivities on the field.
The story of Martinous and his meeting with Charles recently aired on USA Network as a part of the NFL Characters Unite documentary.
The Characters Unite program provides meaningful conversations and unique one-on-one confidence building activities made possible by local YMCAs. Professional athletes encourage the kids they meet to find the character, strength, and courage to persevere and pursue their own dreams.
To learn more about the program, visit CharactersUnite.com.