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Tackling A Life With Limits

September 14, 2010, 10:05 PM by Jay Elsen

Tackling A Life With Limits
ABERDEEN, SD - High school football players are used to encountering physical obstacles. Whether it's an opposing tackler or a personal best in the weight room, someone or something is always standing in their way. But one player at Aberdeen Roncalli is refusing to let anything limit his progress, on or off the field.

On one hand, Michael Martel is just like any other high school football player.

"It's kind of a nice way to get out your aggressions. Sometimes you just have all these emotions built up and sometimes, I feel like kind of a quiet person. It just kind of lets you let loose and go crazy," Martel said.

It's the other hand that makes this particular player so unique. Martel was born without the lower half of his right arm though he's never allowed his self-proclaimed 'situation' to hold him back.

"I think that I can do anything that anyone else can do. Sometimes I just have to find different ways to do it," Martel said.

"A lot of times, in drills, coaches will have kids do things with their hands behind their backs so that they learn how to move their feet and maybe mirror somebody if they get into that situation. If you think about it, that's what Michael does every single play," Roncalli head coach Terry Dosch said. "I think maybe the things that he loses power wise, he makes up for with his quickness, his intelligence and just the fact that he's got a little something burning inside of him that every kid doesn't have."

Dosch says there's nowhere that's more apparent than on the football field where Martel worked his way into the role of two-way starter for his senior season at Aberdeen Roncalli.

"I was really hoping that he would be from the sense that I've seen the things that he's done and how hard he's worked to develop himself," Dosch said. "You didn't know for sure what was going to happen. He just stepped up and exerted himself and he's earned that spot; he's never been given that spot."

"That's been pretty much the overall goal throughout the years. Just working hard throughout the season, offseason, doing whatever I can to get better," Martel said.

If you're impressed with what Martel is doing on the field, you should see what he's doing inside the walls at Roncalli.

Martel has more than earned his keep in the weight room, thanks in part to a prosthesis that's specifically designed for weightlifting.

"It's just a clamp that can turn, just like your wrist can turn around. You open up this clamp here and you can place a bar in there and close it back up and it just locks it down tight," Martel said. "It's not completely natural, but it comes along quickly."

And the confidence that's created is priceless.

"I don't see myself as any different than anyone else," Martel said. "I push myself just as hard as anyone else does. I'll do the same workouts as best I can and I don't see myself as being, just because I only have one arm, that I can't do anything. I feel that I can do whatever I want."

The proof is literally on the wall. Martel boasts one of the Cavaliers' best bench presses at 275 pounds, and his squat of more than 400 is tops on the team. Both numbers will immortalize him on Roncalli's Wall of Fame.

"It means a lot because when you see all the work you've put in and you realize that it actually did pay off. It's not just useless hours that you've put in," Martel said.

Even more important to Martel is the message he's conveying to his team and anyone else who will listen.

"I hope that it gives inspiration to them and anyone else that's looking at me," Martel said. "It doesn't matter what your situation is. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything."

"To me, Michael Martel is a bit of a hero. One regret that I would have is that I've only got one Michael Martel on my team," Dosch said. "He is an exceptional young man. He's, I think, an inspiration to me, an inspiration to our athletes and hopefully an inspiration to people that maybe see this. And if they're feeling a little bit down about something they say, 'Hey, look what that guy's doing with what he's got. Why am I whining about what I have? Maybe I just better get to work.'"

Martel's determination is equally evident in the classroom. He's a 4.0 student and scored a 34 on his ACT. He has yet to make his college choice, but says he'd like to pursue an engineering degree.

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