“They told me I wouldn’t make the football team…I proved them wrong. They told me that I wouldn’t graduate from high school…I proved them wrong. They told me I’d never have a family…I proved them wrong."
“Make it count, make every day count!” — Bobby Martin
“Make it Count”
Bobby Martin was born on November 3, 1987, with a condition deemed by medical experts as “caudal regression syndrome” that left him with no legs. Despite his condition and using no prosthetics, Bobby went on to receive critical acclaim nationally for his athletic accomplishments on the high school gridiron. Bobby’s story transcends America’s most popular sport. It is about his desire and perseverance to overcome obstacles, and achieve what few thought was physically possible. At the age of 2, Bobby’s father left him to be raised by his mother, Gloria in a tiny, one story home in the inner city of Dayton, Ohio. Things were tough, but Bobby received much love and support from his mother and two older brothers. Bright and energetic, Bobby learned to get around independently. Often walking on his hands he displayed exceptional coordination, and the tenacity to compete. Told he wouldn’t be able to play organized sports, Bobby participated in street pick-up games. Prosthetics only hindered Bobby. Money was tight, so Bobby was given an antiquated wheelchair that he refused to use. Too poor to afford a new one, Bobby took to riding a skateboard. In fact, after reading of Bobby’s compelling story, inmates at a nearby prison made a specially designed skateboard and donated it to him. Entering his teen years, Bobby got involved with the wrong crowd and found himself in trouble much of the time. Switching high schools, he was immediately befriended by his new principal, athletic personnel and entire student body. Bobby’s friendly smile and gregarious personality soon made him one of the most popular guys on campus…evidenced by his selection as the “King of the Court” for the school’s homecoming celebration. Bobby’s drug of choice was now adrenalin, and the gang he joined was the football team. Many students initially questioned his decision, but once they saw his dedication in the weight room and on the practice field, they quickly jumped on the bandwagon. The gold and emerald green jersey that bore #99 was proof of Bobby’s commitment to his new brotherhood. More importantly, it gave him an identity. Playing football leveled life’s playing field for Bobby. On this turf, all players are alike and share a common love, football. The coaches didn’t show Bobby pity, they showed him opportunity. Using his quickness and low proximity to the ground, they utilized him at nose-tackle. At first, the grueling work ethic caused much strain on Bobby’s shoulders and arms. As his muscles and calloused hands improved, so did his confidence. His speed improved drastically, enabling him to many times outrun linemen on his and opposing teams. Bobby first made the JV squad then was promoted to Varsity. His first action under the big lights was on special teams. Facing 4th and 1, the opposing team went into punt formation. Seeing Bobby scurry onto the field and lined up opposite the center, the punter took the snap and intentionally ran up the middle. Just as it appeared that he would make the first down, Bobby brought him down with a solo tackle short of the line of scrimmage. Knowing the importance of the play, Bobby danced in celebration. His teammates joined him as the crowd jubilantly welcomed their newest hometown sensation with applause. The celebrating ceased the following week on September 16, 2005. It was at halftime of this game, that referees informed Bobby that he was ineligible to play during the second half. The official’s explanation, “Bobby needed to be wearing shoes.” Shocked, Bobby’s defensive coach, Kerry Ivy, mockingly tied a pair of spikes around Bobby’s waist. No dice. Bobby needed pads as well. The decision stood. For the first time in his life Bobby actually felt handicapped. He wept bitterly. Bobby’s coaches, teammates, cheerleaders, family and friends felt his pain. They attempted to comfort Bobby by telling him that this matter would be cleared up and he’d be back on the playing field next week. Word of Bobby’s fight to play football soon became national news with all forms of media interested in telling his courageous story. Bobby made numerous appearances, including “The Best Damn Sports Show” and even got a call from Oprah’s producers. Sports Illustrated and USA also gave honorable mentions. Even radio jocks gave him tribute. Well, that is all except one. A certain local sports talk show host later recanted his statement about “Bobby not belonging on the field” and personally wanted to make amends. Bobby’s reply, “okay… tell him to put on the pads and meet me on the field.” The next time Bobby suited-up was for an away game at a rival (predominately white) school. Instead of racial slurs and bitterness from the stands, Bobby was given deafening applause and later honored by the opposing team with Superman decals that are only given out for a player’s exemplary performance on the field. The referees also offered a handshake in appreciation of his efforts. Bobby didn’t just do something spectacular for one play, or one game. No, he incredibly finished the season with 41 assisted tackles, 7 solo tackles, 3 sacks (6 hurries), and a fumble recovery..