By | 2017-09-05T15:12:18+00:00 July 27th, 2015|Blog, News|13 Comments

This week, the Special Olympics is taking place in Los Angeles, and I am honored to be part of it.

A lot of people may not be familiar with my story, but it’s important for me to tell it and to keep telling it. There may be kids out there who have to face a lot of the same challenges that I had to face growing up, and I want to help them.


Having fun with campers at a Special Olympics event in Missouri in June.

I had a learning disability, but no one else knew about it. So I struggled early on in the classroom. Math I had no problem with, it came easy to me. But I had trouble focusing and a tough time trying to go over words and read them. When I was in the fifth grade, I was still only reading at a second grade level.

People teased me about it all the time. Every time I had to stand up in front of the class and read, people would laugh. “He can’t read,” they would say. “He don’t know how to pronounce his words.” It hurt.

I was put in the special education program at my school. In special ed, we didn’t get to take field trips like the rest of the kids. The one field trip our class did get to take each year was to a Special Olympics event. It was there that I got my first chance to seriously compete in sports.

I want everyone — and especially those who participate in Special Olympics — to know this: I was you. My dreams came true because I worked hard, and hard work pays off.

I know this from my own life, and not just on the football field. In the classroom, it took a long time for me to learn how to study. I had to put in a lot of hard work. It wasn’t until I got to college that I had the right resources and the right people to help me get past the learning challenges I had.

Just because you’ve got a learning disability, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. If somebody talks badly about you, block them out and ignore them. You have to understand that everyone is different. Everybody learns in a different way. You’ve just got to find what works for you and don’t be discouraged by what people say.  We’re all different. God made you that way, and you’re special.

There’s a lot of people in special ed classes who get down on themselves and get mad, and give up. I’ve seen it. Some people shy away from their dreams, and shy away from themselves. That’s what I wanted to do a lot of the time when I was a young kid. I am here to tell you not to do that. You’re better than that, and I believe in you. Don’t be discouraged, don’t get down, follow your dreams and never give up.

I was raised in the church, and I know we don’t all have the same religion, but everybody should live by certain principles, like treating people kindly. To all the bullies out there: Don’t disrespect anyone. Always respect the other person in front of you or behind you. Treat everybody with kindness. Improve the world around you.

Being a part of the Special Olympics again is truly special to me. To talk with the athletes and to encourage and hopefully inspire them means the world to me. Maybe I can help someone find some courage or talent they didn’t know they had, just like Special Olympics did for me almost 20 years ago.

I have my own kids now, and I know every parent feels the same way about their children that I feel about mine. They are the future, and my goal is to make their lives better. That’s what I want to accomplish. It’s a hard road, and I know for kids like me, it’s extra hard. Everybody should have a chance to be happy, to be successful, and Special Olympics gives a lot of people that chance for the first time, just like it did for me.


  1. Phyllis July 27, 2015 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    You are a wonderful role model for kids.

  2. Carolyn Prim July 27, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Wow! What a great story. I am going to share this with some friends who have special needs kids. Jamaal, thank you for sharing your story. You will never know how much this will help encourage not just our children, but adults too. Many Blessing heres to a banner season….I will be cheering.
    Thank you

  3. Don July 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Excellence on and off the field, Hall of Fame prospect !!

  4. Shirley London July 27, 2015 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Jamaal: I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. I also have a learning disability and know that life is not that easy. You Rock in my book. Aunt Shirley

  5. James July 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    You are are an inspiration to everyone.

  6. Donna l moricle July 27, 2015 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Your story really touched me. You are a blessing to these children. So grateful you are using your NFL career as a platform to help others. May God protect and bless u and the best of luck in your football career.

  7. Heather Piper July 27, 2015 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    I am so inspired by this story. I am going to share your story with my students in my classroom. The kids I teach often time feel ridicule and depression from their learning disabilities. It helps so much to share a stir of someone who overcame obstacles and has proven that hard work pays off. You are truly a role model and once a again I am very proud to be a Chief’s Fan!

  8. Guilbert July 27, 2015 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    There are very few that makes the impact that you do on and off the field.. You are the inspiration that everyone looks to. Continue to be blessed.. I’m your Virginia’s #1 fan.

  9. mark lopp July 28, 2015 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Well done Mr. Charles! I imagine all of us have some kind of disability down the road.Thanks for your contagious courage and inspiration. Go Chiefs!

  10. Kieran Boyle July 28, 2015 at 4:53 am - Reply

    A very few people in the world can stand up and raise the bar for a future generation.. you sir are in that group… not that you showed to over come negativity, and lack of respect towards yourself, you turned it around to prove to anyone, and everyone, that your own courage and work ethic will bust down all obstacles….. I bet its awesome to show these young athletes that saying “STICK IT” to those who never want to give someone that single chance to be somebody is the most powerful option someone can give another person !!!
    Awesome stuff!!!!

  11. Dennis July 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Wondeful, heartfelt story Jamaal.. more people should hear of your inspirational experiences. I certainly respected you as my favorite all-pro Chief, but even more than that, I now have the utmost respect for you as a man… Go Chiefs!

  12. M Anderson July 28, 2015 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Your success as an NFL Pro player is your Second greatest accomplishment.
    The Person you have become is truly the Greatest accomplishment of all.
    God Bless You in all you do.

  13. James February 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Mr. Charles,
    I got misty too at the end of the segment when you and Ryan were on PFT Live in San Francisco with Paul Burmeister.

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