Each year leading up to the Super Bowl, the NFL selects honorary captains to participate in the coin toss ceremony on game day. The captains are chosen out of a vast pool of extraordinary people who have helped and served their communities. This year, three honorary captains were selected, including Marine Corps veteran James Martin.
Martin, a Steelers fan from Pittsburgh, served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was injured in 2013. From there, he went on to volunteer for the Wounded Warrior Project and he hasn’t stopped giving back since. Martin has connected more than 1,800 veterans with their families through the Wounded Warrior Project virtual programs, and has been supporting veterans, athletes, and local youths since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
In an attempt to continue to bring veterans together and provide them with a welcoming support system, Martin also created an online gaming community for vets, where they livestream and play games. “We opened up a Discord,” explained Martin. “It was meant to virtually connect veterans together during the pandemic. We knew there was a large population of our veterans that we served that played video games, and this was one of the ways we could not only connect with them, but to still be able to provide services and do programs with.”
Martin is also involved with the Veterans Breakfast Club, an organization that allows veterans to share their stories, as well as hosts a podcast, “The Scuttlebutt,” to provide a platform for informed discussions about the military experience. Amazingly, Martin didn’t stop there on his quest to give back and “answer the call,” as he says. He has since utilized his tech experience working with the veteran gaming community to livestream local Aliquippa High School football’s home games. Martin hoped this would help reduce crowds attending games, therefore helping reduce the spread of the coronavirus, while also highlighting the talent and hardwork of the student athletes.
“I appreciate the family, the community,” Martin said as he explained his motivation behind his volunteer work. “If there is anything I have learned in this life, it’s much like the team. The team represents the city. We put it on your backs. I do the same thing for my family. It just keeps paying itself forward. That is the best we can do.”
For all of these reasons and more, the selfless Martin received a Zoom phone call in the early months of 2021 from Steelers’ Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, informing him that he was chosen as an honorary captain. “We would like to thank you for the work you have done for you community, and the Wounded Warrior community over the past year,” said Bettis through a large grin. “And to honor you, we would like to invite you to Super Bowl 55 as one of the NFL’s honorary captains and participate in the coin toss.”
Three heroes – Trimaine Davis, Suzie Dorner and James Martin – who served as leaders in their respective communities during the global pandemic will be honored at Super Bowl LV as this year’s Honorary Coin Toss Captains – here’s how they found out about their selection. pic.twitter.com/NvjxcGz1PH
— NFL (@NFL) January 27, 2021
Martin was speechless at the moment, having been driving to Aliquippa to livestream the high school’s basketball game at the time of the call. He later told Fox News, “I’m absolutely astonished, humbled, and surprised.” Martin continued to explain that by being chosen as an honorary captain, “people can see that there are still ways – even though there’s a pandemic – to give back and answer the call when people need help.”
Martin is being honored and will participate in the coin toss alongside educator Trimaine Davis and nurse manager Suzie Dorner at Super Bowl LV. “We are honored to recognize these three individuals who represent the best in all of us,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “During this incredibly challenging time in our lives, Trimaine, Suzie, and James have exemplified the essence of leadership, each in their own way. We are grateful for their commitment and proud to share their stories and recognize them during this special moment on Super Bowl Sunday.”