Former football player leaves NFL to help at-risk kids through charitable arts foundation

National & World

BALTIMORE (WTAJ) — A Penn State Nittany Lion turned NFL player has left the game to follow his true passion. Aaron Maybin believes leaving the game has had a positive impact on his community.

Maybin traded his pads and cleats for pencils and paintbrushes. Now he’s using his art to shape the community around him in Baltimore, Maryland. The 32-year-old has seen much success. He began his athletic career at Penn State and in 2009 he was a first-round draft pick for the Buffalo Bills. He then went on to the New York Jets where he ended his career in 2013.

“If I were to drop dead tomorrow and the greatest thing somebody could say about me is that he was a damn good football player then I wasted a lot of time in my life,” Maybin said.

His artistic career took off after retirement with paintings selling for as much as $20,000. But Maybin dreamed of inspiring real change in Black communities like the ones in his hometown.

“When you talk about reforming or changing any society it starts with our youth. It starts with the investment that we’re making in our youth,” he says.

Maybin combined his passion for creativity with what he believes is the key to enhancing life for people of color, education. He added that “so many of the parts of our educational process invalidate our kids’ livelihood, invalidate their living experiences, and invalidates their humanity.”

Until this fall, Maybin was teaching creative arts in underfunded public schools. He’s raised more than $90,000 to help purchase heating systems for Baltimore public schools. He says there are too many students in inner cities lacking the basic tools needed to simply sit in a classroom and learn.

Maybin is also using his creativity to enhance learning methods for inner-city students. He’s written two books, a workbook, and designed a number of art pieces that reflect the lives of the kids reading them.

Maybin adds “until I saw an educator who looked like me, I didn’t think that they existed. Not that your ignorant enough to think that it couldn’t exist but you don’t know what it looks like. I always wanted my work to be something that little kids who grew up where I grew up that look like me saw themselves reflected and saw their complexions, saw their hairstyles, saw their history reflected back at them.”

In addition to creating positive examples for young black students, he still sells his “Activist Artwork” to adults for the same reason.

Stepping off the field and picking up a paintbrush, is just his first step in putting culture on the canvas for this generation and for more to come.

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