From the Gridiron to the App Store: Former Star QB's Incredible 'Journey'

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterJune 10, 2015

Getty Images

Taylor Martinez knows about setbacks, so he's dedicated his time to helping those whose setbacks were far greater than his own. 

Martinez is recovering from foot surgery. Three months ago, he went to North Carolina to have a ligament reattached in one of his toes. It was the latest medical procedure in what has been a series of physical difficulties that cut his college career short at Nebraska. A year ago, the former Cornhuskers quarterback, who last played against Minnesota in October 2013, failed a physical that ended any shot he would have had with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Martinez's football career was over, but only then did his true calling begin. 

Shortly after failing his physical, Martinez began working on a social-media app that would become known as "Journey—A Positive Social Network." Paired with Loren Hall, Martinez's best friend from high school, the former Nebraska quarterback set out to change the lives of the physically and mentally disabled through social networking. 

What is Journey?

"It's a mix of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter," Martinez said in an interview with Bleacher Report.

Available for download on the App Store, the free app currently features 15 categories for mental and physical disabilities, ranging from cancer to addiction, and more than 100 sub-categories. Even wounded warriors have a place. And the list keeps growing.

Journey aims to bring people with similar disorders together. They can share their stories, ask questions, post reflections and locate others.

"You can meet someone who's 1,000 miles away," Martinez said, "or someone who's right next door." 

The Journey of 'Journey'

It all started with a handoff. 

Martinez can trace Journey's origins back to 2013 and Jack Hoffman, the seven-year-old boy with pediatric brain cancer who scored a 69-yard touchdown in Nebraska's spring game. Hoffman's dream was to be part of a football team, and Nebraska adopted him as one of their own. His touchdown became an instant hit, winning an ESPY for "Best Moment" just a few months later. 

Handing the ball off to Hoffman and directing him downfield was Martinez, who saw firsthand what happens when a young boy realizes his dream in front of 60,000 fans.  

In concept, that's when Journey was born. 

"With how much excitement the fans showed and how happy he was, I really wanted to inspire others and help," Martinez said. 

Martinez internalized that feeling, and when his football career was over, he got to work. Martinez has always been tech-savvy. His goal is to move Journey to San Francisco and be a part of the tech world.

He's created five apps to date, but none have captured his time and energy like Journey. 

Martinez and Hall created a website, did beta testing, tweaked and retweaked the app. Then, they tweaked it again. There's a large audience for Journey, Martinez believes.

"I read somewhere that 15 percent of the world's population is affected by some sort of disability," he said. "That's over 1 billion people." 

That's a lot of connections that have yet to be made. 

That's the biggest goal for Martinez: He wants others to know that, no matter how rare their disease or disability may be, there's someone out there who knows what they're going through. 

"In a year, I'd like to see it among the top 100 apps. I'd love for it to be a household name," Martinez said. "The biggest challenge right now is getting the word out.

"But hopefully, it'll be a crazy year for Journey." 

How It Works

Journey has four missions: inspire, encourage, learn and educate.

To achieve those results, users can participate in a variety of ways. They can post a photo, ask or answer a question (anonymously, if they wish), share daily thoughts up to 500 characters in "Reflections" and locate people near them. 

"And then there's 'My Journey' where you can write your story and what you've gone through," Martinez said. "You write as little or as much as you want." 

Martinez says he's working on increasing the amount to 1,000 characters, but the important thing is that users are connecting. 

Journey isn't just limited to those afflicted with disabilities, though. People can become ambassadors and supporters. Part of Journey's concept is to bring as much attention as possible to the disabilities that affect people every day. The categories list is ever-growing. There's no cap on the type of people Journey can bring together.

"For rare diseases, Journey can help spread the word," Martinez said. 

That's priority No. 1 right now. Martinez has already spoken with the Hoffman family and members of "Team Jack" who have shared the app on social media.   

Team Jack @TeamJack

Check it out! @JourneyAppStore & share your journey to help others! Designed by former husker @TMAG1C #HuskerFamily http://t.co/CpMEHE6CeH

In August of last year, it was reported that Jack's cancer had returned. It was a somber reminder that Jack was in an ongoing battle. The most recent post from the Team Jack Facebook page said that Jack was able to spend a few days fishing, a positive sign that he's still able to live his life. 

People like Jack will never stop fighting, so neither will Taylor Martinez. 

"The thing about apps is that they're always a work in progress," Martinez said. "So it's never done." 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.