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Published: Thursday, 12/7/2006

No legs, but lot of moxie

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bobby Martin, who was born without legs, high-fives the Browns' Matt Stewart. Martin, who played on special teams at Dayton Colonial High School, was an inspirational guest of the team. Bobby Martin, who was born without legs, high-fives the Browns' Matt Stewart. Martin, who played on special teams at Dayton Colonial High School, was an inspirational guest of the team.
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CLEVELAND - Pounding his hands into the turf, Bobby Martin propelled his 3-foot body across the field the way he once chased high school quarterbacks.

Born without legs, Martin, wearing a Browns jacket and hat, slid into place in a single-file line of Cleveland players during pregame introductions before Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

As the NFL giants darted past, Martin reached up, slapped hands and screamed encouragement to his new friends.

He no longer inspires by playing football.

These days, Martin motivates simply by being himself.

"He was firing people up," Browns safety Brian Russell said.

He always has.

Last weekend, Martin was invited to be a guest of the Browns, a team desperate for wins and one quickly coming apart at the seams.

A week earlier, Cleveland had been embarrassed 30-0 by the Cincinnati Bengals, a lospided loss made much worse by Braylon Edwards' sideline tirade. The wide receiver was upset about the Browns' offensive line and yanked at quarterback Charlie Frye's jersey to prove his point.

That outburst set off red flags for some Cleveland fans, who wondered if coach Romeo Crennel had lost control. The Browns seemed to be unraveling fast.

Meeting Martin may have helped them get it together.

"I think it inspired some of the guys to feel different about what they consider to be their problems," Crennel said. "Their problems are that they're feeling bad and they didn't catch enough balls, and here's a guy who doesn't have any legs who has a great attitude and who can still operate and play the game. So I think that that changed some of their attitudes."

Martin has that effect on people.

On Saturday, after being introduced by Crennel, the 19-year-old Martin began working his charm on the Browns. First, he had a laugh at the expense of Edwards and Frye.

"I had some fun," he said. "I was messing with Braylon and Charlie. They were standing next to each other, and I said, 'Did you two settle your differences, or do I have to settle them for you?' Braylon said, 'Oh, yeah, we're cool.' They shook hands."

Later, Martin bet Edwards $100 that he could tackle Browns punt returner Dennis Northcutt in a race to the end zone.

"He tried to shake me a little bit, but I stayed with him," Martin said. "I pushed him out of bounds at the 1-yard line, and he was like, 'Wow! I thought I was gonna leave you back there.'•"

The team presented him with a signed helmet, and tight end Kellen Winslow gave the youngster a pair of his gloves.

As the Browns and Chiefs warmed up, Martin scooted around Cleveland's sideline on his wide-decked skateboard. Last season, the Green Bay Packers had him for a visit. This Sunday in Cincinnati, he'll be a guest of Oakland defensive lineman Warren Sapp, who sent Martin an autographed Raiders helmet.

It wasn't all that long ago Martin was on the field as a player. He was a nose tackle and played special teams at Dayton's Colonel White High School, a feat that surely speaks to the possibilities of human will and spirit. He would drive his arms into the ground, then swing them like crutches to thrust himself forward.

A few days before coming to Cleveland, Martin was in Boise, Idaho, where he received a humanitarian award and visited a local veterans hospital.

"Some of them had lost limbs and I showed them what I could do," Martin said. "One of the men got so emotional, he made me cry. He was like, 'I'm amazed by what you do. I'd given up. I'm just lying in bed waiting for my life to end.' I told him, 'Don't ever give up cause you only live once.'•"

After the Browns rallied to stun the Chiefs in OT, the team invited him into its locker room to celebrate. Edwards called Martin the club's good-luck charm and they exchanged phone numbers.

Martin had already given the Browns something much bigger.

"Inspiration," kicker Phil Dawson said. "To see a guy like that, and the things that he's been able to accomplish in his circumstances, is something special. Anytime you can be around a person like that it's encouraging. I hope he went away knowing that he brought encouragement to us. It was a treat to get to meet someone like that."


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