I felt like I was part of many families, and that support has made me successful.

Jamaal Charles

Retired NFL running back

Port Arthur, TX

I had a learning disability growing up, and when my grandma passed away, I was searching for someone to support me and have my back. My auntie took me in and taught me how to read and helped me with SAT prep—this lady did a wonderful thing for me.

My dad wasn’t around, but a close family friend, Dr. Kurt Williams, supported me and my dreams. It didn’t matter if I won or lost or messed up, he always said, “Whatever Jamaal needs, no matter how much.” One year, I couldn’t afford to go to the Junior Olympics to run track in New York and Canada, and he provided the money for me to go. We still talk today and I call him my Daddy. My biological father wasn’t around, but Dr. Kurt was, and he became my daddy.

Another man, James Payne, helped guide me in financial planning and pick my agents. He always told me I would be successful and believed in me. This man had four kids and he treated me as one of his own. That’s kind of weird to me, because most people with kids don’t support someone in such a personal way when that person isn’t their own flesh and blood; but between my auntie who had two kids of her own, Dr. Kurt, and James, I felt like I was part of many families, and that support has made me successful in my life.

Jamaal Charles is a retired National Football League (NFL) running back. He serves as a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics.

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