Former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles is still trying to continue his career in the NFL. Just a few days ago, both he and Adrian Peterson had workouts with the Washington Redskins. Peterson got the roster spot, but that is not likely to deter Charles for long.
In his lifetime, Charles has overcome much greater hurdles.
"I was hiding something deep inside me."— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) August 22, 2018
As a child, @jcharles25 was diagnosed with a learning disability. @SOTexas changed his life.
His story on why he gives back: #TakeAction (In partnership with @AmFam) pic.twitter.com/Tx3BUzmUGw
In a new video produced by The Player’s Tribune — a media company founded by former major league baseball star Derek Jeter that gives athletes a platform to connect directly with their fans — Charles tells of his difficult childhood in Port Arthur, Texas.
I was afraid to tell people I was different than other people. I was hiding something deep inside me. I had a learning disability growing up, and it was hard for me in school — being picked on by peers, being picked on by adults, being picked on by cousins. It was hard to be able to just be you. You’re hiding yourself in another body that’s not your body, because you’re so scared of the person people are saying you are.
But Charles eventually found an outlet: the Special Olympics. Competing in the events as a 10-year-old, he won three gold medals — giving him the confidence to overcome his limitations. He continues to participate in the program — although this time, as an example of how the opportunities Special Olympics provides can change lives.
I’m happy to be a part. I’m excited every time I do a Special Olympics event, because I remember. I was there.
Well into his NFL career, Charles kept this part of his life private. That changed in July 2015, when he gave an inspirational speech at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.
I’ve been asked to talk about courage. But I can’t talk about courage without talking about fear. Before I had a chance to be an All-American running back at Port Arthur High School in Texas... before I had a chance to win a national championship at the University of Texas and attaining academic honors... before I had the chance to become a professional athlete and All-Pro running back in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs... before all those wonderful moments, I was afraid. I was lost. When I was a boy, I had trouble reading. I found out I had a learning disability. People made fun of me. They said I would never go anywhere. But I learned I can fly.
Charles has also contributed his story to a book — The Middle School Rules of Jamaal Charles. The book — part of a series of books intended for young readers — shows how struggling kids can learn to fly, too.
Through his play, Charles gave inspiration to millions of Chiefs fans around the world. It is wonderful to see this incredible athlete continue to make a positive impact on the world in which he lives.