DETROIT (FOX 2) - He was a gifted athlete on his way to a career in arena football when a gunshot left him in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. Now this young man is beating the odds to compete in next year's paralympic games.
"Just cause you're in a chair doesn't mean you can't still live life to its fullest," said Antonio Martin.
Rated number six in the world, the 30-year-old para powerlifter, who fought for Team USA last month, says he's ready to do it again.
"I feel like I'm getting stronger and ready to go represent the U.S.," Martin said.
Back in high school in Detroit, Martin had dreams of becoming a professional football player. But his dreams were derailed in 2012 while working as a security guard at a downtown Detroit club.
"Big brawl breaks out. Everybody's fighting, and I saw maybe six people get their heads busted wide open," he said.
Trying to break up the fight, Martin heard hearing gunshots.
"I just felt a shock and I just fell to the floor, tried to get up. I couldn't," he said.
A bullet pierced his back, causing his spine to swell.
"That's when I was told that I was paralyzed from the waist down and I'd never walk again," he said.
In disbelief, Martin relied on his faith, his wife and three kids for support through three months of strenuous recovery. But he never became angry or bitter, even forgiving the man who shot him.
"I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I still believe that I will get up off of this chair one day and walk," Martin said.
Martin stayed busy mentoring kids and playing wheelchair basketball. Then he tried out para powerlifting in 2017, winning a gold medal in Michigan. Soon, he joined Team USA.
In fact, he competed for Team USA two months ago in Kazakhstan. He says he can lift about 560 lbs. Martin says he powerlifts two days a week for at least 3 hours. His warm up weight? 333 lbs. Now Martin is excited to soon head to Tokyo. His love for competing is growing stronger as well.
"There's a lot of people in the crowd. They have the lights flickering and flashing. They have the smoke, fog and stuff coming up it's just an amazing feeling," he said.
Martin's wife created a donation page and he's selling his own merchandise to help fund his trips. He's hoping others will be inspired to do what he's done: never quit.
"Never give up. There's always somebody in a worse situation than you are. You still have life. You still have breath in your body. There's no reason not to do anything," he said.
If you'd like to make a donation to Martin's medical and paralympic efforts, you can do so via a GoFundMe account here.