His father was a garbageman and a roofer; his mother was a middle school janitor and a roofer too. "They met on a roof," says Detroit Lions guard Manny Ramirez.
"If it wasn't for football, I wouldn't have been able to go to college, because there was no way we could ever afford it," says Ramirez in a TODAY show "Together We Make Football" series.
Ramirez worked hard to get football scholarships and became the first in his family to attend college.
"Our parents sacrificed a lot, and I'm grateful for that," says the NFL star, who now uses his fame to inspire young people to see that they too can work hard and have big dreams.
The Mexican American football player, his wife and two small children spend time giving back to the community, especially in Detroit's "Mexicantown."
"I take a lot of pride in being a Hispanic role model, especially for the youth - there are not many of us in this position," says Ramirez.
"He can relate to them," says his wife, Iris Ramirez, about the bond her football star husband has with Latino neighborhood kids. She says he knows what it's like to grow up with only "the essentials."
"Being Mexican American allows me to be someone others look up to," says the NFL star.
"I want to set a foundation for them to believe that no matter what people say, we do have an opportunity," Ramirez adds.