Of all things, a drink koozie helped launch the career of Beggs (Okla.) freshman defensive end Joe Martel III, believed to be the first double amputee in Oklahoma prep football history.
Martel was born without shin bones — a condition known as tibial hemimelia — and portions of both legs were amputated when he was 18 months old. As his father described to MaxPreps and Tulsa’s KOKI-TV in recent weeks, the Martels knew their son was bound for a football field when he first ran across the living room with koozies on the ends of his legs.
“From then on,” Joe Martel Jr. told MaxPreps, “we knew that he was going to be able to participate in sports and do other things.”
According to the feature by the local FOX affiliate, Martel kept the koozies for padding when he began playing youth football without the benefit of prosthetic legs. As seen in the embedded video, he even scored a touchdown as a running back in the first grade. It wasn’t until the fourth grade when he began playing on prosthetics.
Now a 14-year-old freshman defensive end at Beggs, Martel still runs stadium stairs without the prosthetics, but puts them on when he takes the field. He has mainly played for the freshmen and junior varsity squads this season, but has also appeared sparingly at the varsity level — an accomplishment for any freshman on a team that’s reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals each of the past two seasons.
“People think I can’t do it. I just show them that I can,” Martel told KOKI-TV. “I am a big example for some people. If I can do it, they can do it.”
The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association told FOX 23’s Nathan Thompson that Martel is the first double amputee to play football at even the junior varsity level. Hopefully, his inspiring story ensures he won’t be the last.