Mike Martin: Former Cincinnati Bengal and Taft High coach honors son Marcus with football camp

Teaching kids the same lessons he taught his son

CINCINNATI - A sudden death.

A family's grief.

And from it all, a way to honor the dead by serving the living.

It's the saga of Mike Martin and his family after his son's death.

Cincinnati has known Martin since he got drafted by the Bengals back in 983. He has been a player, a singer, a broadcaster, a successful high school coach and a club owner.

Mike has done it all. We know Mike. Now he wants to know his son, Marcus.

There's a time in life to be tough and Mike Martin made his living in a very tough sport. But sometimes being tough just doesn't cut it. Martin learned that two months ago when Marcus, 25, died from a blood clot.

"We pray a lot. We know he's in a better place. We never ask why," Martin told WCPO this week.

Martin admits he wonders. He stares at family pictures in his office:

A terrific wife and daughter and a son who was more like a brother.

"He thought I was the greatest. He thought his pop was up there with everybody," Martin said. "He wanted to make sure that folks heard my message."

It's the message that transformed Taft High School football back into a viable program.

Not just to play and win, but to live and understand.

Marcus was his dad's middle man.

"Whenever I would go off on one of the kids and they would get upset and start crying and going crazy – we had kids beating up bushes and all kinds of stuff – Marcus would reel them back in," Mike said.

"Even when he was playing, he would reel them back in and say, 'Hey, listen, man. All my dad wants you to do is be the best that you can be. He wants you to work hard and don't cheat yourself.' "

As high schools gear up for football season, Martin is holding a camp this weekend -  in Marcus'  honor - for the little kids.

To teach boys and girls to learn fundamentals.

It's how Marcus learned the game.

It's what bonded Mike and Marcus.

It's what Marcus would have wanted.

That camp is free for boys and girls ages 5 to 12 on Saturday at Taft's Stargel Stadium. Children can register starting at 8 a.m.  Nobody will be turned away.

RELATED: Marcus Martin dies unexpectedly at 25

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