(WLAX/WEUX) – An NFL player in the prime of his career, walks away from the game to follow what he says is his true calling, educating and empowering the youth in African American communities.

Reporter Amanda Lee introduces us to Aaron Maybin and his journey from linebacker to activist.

Aaron Maybin was born, raised and to this day lives in Baltimore.

“I just just want the world to see be city and love as much as I do,” said Maybin.

Blessed with exceptional talent, Aaron landed at Penn State University, where he excelled on the field. But, just years after his selection as an NFL first-round draft pick, he made a stunning decision.

“From a very early age, I saw myself as more than an athlete,” said Maybin.

He traded his helmet and cleats, for paint brushes and a fresh canvas with no regrets.

Maybin said, “I said 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.”

Aaron’s true life’s calling was just beginning.

“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,” said Maybin.

Maybin started the project mayhem foundation more than decade ago with a simple mission, to help underprivileged and at-risk youth excel.

“Some of my students are not even in 3rd or 4th grade, but they’re in charge of getting four or five of their young siblings to school every day. You know when you’re walking through the projects. Through open-air drug markets at the crack of dawn, people get robbed, people get stabbed, people get shot. It happens every day,” said Maybin.

He works directly with children, educating, inspiring, and showing young black children their value is endless, through art.

It’s an opportunity he’s never taken for granted.

“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,” said Maybin.

And his work extends beyond his own foundation.

The wildly successful operation heat fundraiser raised more than 82-thousand dollars to help warm Baltimore’s classrooms.

“So many of the parts of our educational process invalidate our kids’ livelihood, invalidate their living experiences, and invalidates their humanity,” said Maybin.

Aaron’s artistic tapestry has expanded beyond the boundaries of Baltimore, his workbooks being taught in more than 2 dozen school districts across the country.

“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,” said Maybin.

In Baltimore, Amanda Lee, reporting.