Joe Martel III
is like many other high school football players.
He lights up when he talks about the sport that he has played since childhood, enjoys the contact involved in the game, and participates fully at practice for the Beggs (Okla.)
By all accounts, Martel is a regular teammate. He stands out only by the way he stands: on two prosthetic legs.
Martel was born with a condition called tibia hemimelia, which means he did not have shin bones.
"I was born without a tibia in my bones," Martel said. "I had my legs and feet. If they wouldn't have amputated my legs, I wouldn't have been able to play football."
It wasn't long before Martel gravitated toward the gridiron.
According to his father, Joe Martel Jr., Martel once experimented by placing a drink koozie on the end of his legs. When young Joe seemed comfortable and sprinted across the living room, the elder Martel knew it wouldn't be long before his son pursued an athletic career.
"From then on, we knew that he was going to be able to participate in sports and do other things," he said.
In youth football, Martel earned reps at running back and even scored a touchdown. Now, as a high school freshman, he plays defensive line under the tutelage of head coach Lee Blankenship.
His influence on the team has been palpable. Simply by being a member of the team, Martel has a profound effect on his peers.
"When one of our kids feels like they're having a bad day, they look over at Joe and see that smile, see his work ethic. Man, it really motivates and inspires our kids," said Blankenship.
See Martel in action in the photos below as well as in the video above.