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.
Once he gained confidence by competing in the Special Olympics, the teasing stopped and the tutoring began. Charles set out to prove wrong the doubters who said he was not 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 is to pay tribute to the Special Olympics this weekend as one of 1,000 players who is to lace up customized cleats reflecting their charitable endeavors as part of the league’s “My Cause My Cleats” campaign.
That is double the amount of players who participated in the inaugural effort last year.
The Special Olympics “was the drive that sparked me, that led me to do all those things, and look where I’m at now,” said Charles, who joined the Denver Broncos this season after nine years in Kansas City where he is the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher and boasts the highest career rushing average (5.5 yards) in NFL history.
Charles’ reddish-orange cleats honor the Special Olympics that changed his life when he was 10 years old and won a gold medal in track and field. More importantly, he came away with a newfound confidence and, eventually, acceptance.
“People that have a chance to compete in the Special Olympics, they build up confidence — confidence that we don’t have in the classroom, confidence we don’t have around ‘normal’ people,” Charles said. “You believe in yourself.”
Charles began to share his story two years ago when he gave a speech at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles in front of more than 60,000 people.
“A lot of people where happy that I did it. They were surprised. They didn’t know my history or my story about the Special Olympics,” Charles said. “I competed in the Special Olympics when I was young in middle school and that’s when [I realized] that I can do something in life.”
Other players supporting the Special Olympics with their calico cleats this weekend include Aaron Rodgers, Tyreek Hill, Joe Flacco and Kareem Hunt.
Von Miller is wearing two different cleats: One has eyeballs and eye charts on it to promote his foundation “Von’s Vision,” which provides eyewear to underprivileged kids, while the other is a black and purple cleat with detachable butterfly wings on the back in honor of a childhood friend who was diagnosed with lupus.
Domata Peko’s specialized shoes support Save the Children and feature a Syrian flag.
“The reason I put Syria on here is because my wife is from Syria and they are going through a really tough time right now,” the Broncos nose tackle said. “Save the Children has been doing a good job with the refugees that are over there. I just wanted to show some love to the children.”
Derek Carr of the Raiders is using his cleats to talk about his son, Dallas, who was born with an intestinal abnormality, while other players, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, are to use their cleats to showcase social justice issues.
Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville will wear specialized sneakers honoring the Donate Life kidney donation program in honor of his late mother who donated a kidney to a family friend several years before she died in a motorcycle accident.
Players are increasingly wearing custom-designed cleats before games to make a statement, fashion or otherwise.
The king of the customized shoes is Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, but players can only wear them during warm-ups, because NFL rules prohibit players from wearing shoes during games that are not black or white with a team color.
Week 13 is the only weekend that players do not have to worry about the league’s fashion police flagging them for fines over their footwear.
Afterward, the shoes are to be auctioned to raise money for the charities.
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen
Max Verstappen informed his Red Bull team that he would not be driving “like a grandma” in Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday — and he was as good as his word. The Dutch 22-year-old seized his opportunity at Silverstone, ending dominant Mercedes’ run of four successive wins this season and moving up to second place overall, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen’s confidence shone through early on, after slotting into third place behind the two Mercedes, when he was told by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to take care of his tires. “Mate, this is the only chance of being
FULL GAME: Henry Sosa pitched nine innings for the Guardians, allowing only six hits all night, while the Monkeys’ offense were also shut out of their game Outfielder Lin An-ko carried a big bat this week — before his Uni-President Lions ran into the Fubon Guardians last night — blasting four home runs, including a grand slam as his side won four games in a row and moved into second on the CPBL table. However, the Lions could not sustain their super-charged offense for the whole week, as they were shut out 4-0 by the Guardians in New Taipei City. Fubon’s rookie catcher, Jhang Jin-de, took a page from Lin’s playbook. With two men on, Jhang smacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Henry Sosa of the Dominican Republic