|The following article will surprise no one on Hawk Hill as Phil Martelli has always been a "man with and for others in the Jesuit tradition." Above Phil took time to talk to the grade school kids I coached while at practice at St. Joseph's Prep.|
St. Joseph's coach helps an injured teen
What's in a name?
Anyone interested in the answer to the question posed by Shakespeare should ask Lenny Martelli.
Lenny would say inspiration. Hope. Motivation.
Lenny Martelli is a 16-year-old junior at Pope John Paul II High School who suffered a spinal injury during a snowboarding accident in Schwenksville one year ago today. The injury left him paralyzed from the waist down. The prognosis was that his chances of ever again walking were very slim - but Lenny will walk onto the court with St. Joseph's basketball coach Phil Martelli at Wednesday's game against Xavier at Hagan Arena.
"As soon as I met [the coach], he told me right away he wanted me to come out on the court with him one day and walk with him, and I made that my goal," Lenny recalled. "It gave me a big push. It was like me being an athlete and a coach telling me I have to work harder and work toward something. And being an athlete, I was always trying to do what my coaches told me. Having a coach give me something to work for, it gave me more of an edge.
"I'm definitely excited about this. I'll probably be nervous because there will be lot of people there, but I'll be more excited."
Lenny said the two caps and shirt that Martelli gave him are on his bedpost.
Phil Martelli clearly remembered the day he met Lenny Martelli at Magee.
"The first thing that jumped out at me was, here's a young kid who was snowboarding and, now, his life could be upside down," he said, emotion rising in his voice. "There was all this family love. The family spirit captured me. What moved me is [his mother] thought I could make a difference. I just said to Lenny, 'Next year you're going to walk out on the court with me.' "
PHILADELPHIA -- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli on Wednesday will take the court with the most inspirational walk-on of his career.
No scorecard needed - but keep the tissues handy.
Lenny Martelli Jr., no relation to the famous Hawks coach, remembers little about the Feb. 15, 2010 snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed. Only 15 years old, he lay motionless on the snow, fearing his normal life was finished.
"As soon it happened, I just thought about not playing football," Martelli said. "I thought about not being able to do certain things. I had to accept that right away."
His acceptance wouldn't last long.
He had a broken neck, not a crushed spirit.
Lenny Martelli survived surgery and rehabilitation, and was tutored for months in a hospital bed. He listened to doctors tell him he may never walk again.
With the aid of canes, though, Martelli has ditched the hospital and started walking. He even plays guitar in a band. And on Wednesday night, he'll walk onto the court with Phil Martelli before the Hawks (7-17, 2-8 Atlantic 10) take on No. 24 Xavier (18-6, 9-1).
"I told him when he gets healthy," Phil Martelli said, "I want him to walk on the court with me at a game."
Because one Martelli kept his promise to a coach, the other delivered with a chance of a lifetime. And he'll do it the day after the one-year anniversary of the worst day of his life.
Lenny Martelli was like any teen who seemingly had it all. He played sports, went to school at Bishop Kenrick, played drums with a passion. He also enjoyed snowboarding.
But one freak accident nearly robbed him of his ability to walk and fulfill his future. When the accident happened near Schwenksville, Pa., where he was with two close friends, he immediately had no feeling from the chest down. He told his friends he couldn't move. They didn't touch him and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
His family, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., was called and only told their son was in an accident.
His mother, Leti, recalled a harrowing scene of hearing paramedics yell in a hall "Code blue! Code blue! Move out of the way!" She saw them rushing a stretcher with a white blanket covering the body and knew it had to be her son.
"He had a smile on his face saying, 'It's OK, mom. Don't cry, mom. Don't cry," she said. "He said, 'I just can't feel anything.' That made me cry even more."
He underwent six hours of surgery and doctors fused bones from his hip with vertebrae in his neck. His spinal cord was bruised in the accident, as well.
Lenny Martelli spent a week in a Philadelphia hospital, then three months in a rehabilitation facility. Leti Martelli stayed by her son's side and lived at the hospital while her husband was at home taking care of their other two children. Leti Martelli rented an apartment in Philadelphia and pushed her son in a wheelchair every day to a new therapy center.
During this confusing and depressing time, Lenny Martelli never cried.
"I think I shed one tear when the priest from our church came to talk me," said Martelli, who turns 17 in July. "I didn't want to let anyone to see I was hurt."
The time around doctors and staff eventually led to many questions that had nothing to do with adjusting to his unexpected new life: Are you related to Phil Martelli?
The answer, was no. But Lenny was a sports fan and he certainly knew all about the coach who led the Hawks to a No. 1 national ranking in the 2003-04 season. He told his mom it would be cool if he had to chance to meet the basketball coach.
His mom called the basketball office and startled a work-study student who answered the phone with her tale.
The student told Martelli he had to take the call. At first, he declined because he was watching tape and it almost seemed "made up." Not only did they share the same last name, Martelli once coached at Bishop Kenrick.
But when the student insisted he talk to the crying woman on the other line, his interest was soon raised.
"I said is your name really Martelli," he asked. "You really went to Bishop Kenrick?"
He started visiting Lenny and keeps in monthly contact with him.
"People touch me, too," Phil Martelli said. "I'm fortunate."
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