ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — For most of his NFL career, Jamaal Charles hid the challenges of his childhood when he was badgered over his reading disability before finding a lifeline in the Special Olympics.
“I feel like I was an outcast, I was left out because so many people made fun of me. But when they saw me play sports, there was just something about me where people came to me and just stopped talking about me and started being more of my friend,” Charles said in an interview with The Associated Press in which he opened up about the role Special Olympics played in his life.
Once he gained confidence by competing in the Special Olympics, the teasing stopped. The tutoring began. And Charles set out to prove wrong the doubters who said he wasn’t smart enough to get into college and would never play professional football.
“I had to fight all my life to prove to people that I can do those things,” said Charles, who will pay tribute to the Special Olympics this weekend as one of 1,000 players who will lace up customized cleats reflecting their charitable endeavors as part of the league’s “My Cause My Cleats” campaign.