Martin has new perspective on game
Oh, the difference a year makes, especially for the No. 16 defensive end in the ESPNU 150, Chris Martin.
This time last season, the defensive end was starting a successful junior campaign for Bishop O'Dowd in Oakland, Calif., that would end with 110 tackles, 20 for loss, and four sacks. And then in February, he committed to Notre Dame.
"I just went with my gut feeling," Martin said about committing to Notre Dame a year before the Class of 2010's signing day. "And why waste a lot of time with letting other schools get into it and confuse you?"
A year later, things have changed. Martin moved to Colorado this summer to live with his cousin DeShaun Shewl and now plays for Grandview High School (Aurora, Colo.).
Martin originally planned to transfer to The Hun School (Princeton, N.J.) in order to enroll early at Notre Dame because Bishop O'Dowd doesn't have an early enrollment policy. When The Hun School didn't offer a full scholarship and Martin decided he wasn't going to enroll early, moving to Colorado with Shewl was a better option for the four-star recruit.
Martin also is keeping his options open about the recruiting process.
"I had Notre Dame picked as my commitment, but there's also other schools that I keep in contact with," said the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Martin, who has gained about 30 pounds since his sophomore season.
Schools like California, Tennessee, maybe Florida, possibly USC and one or two other schools.
He hasn't decommitted; he's just leaving his options open. Martin will take his official visit to Notre Dame on Oct. 17 when the Fighting Irish host USC, and Martin says he hopes the visit will reassure him of his decision.
"I just want to see a football team that's on the way to winning and that's in the right direction, and not one that's sitting there still on the hoofs trying to struggle just to get games where they should win," Martin said.
On Martin's end, he hopes to show the Notre Dame coaches what they can expect from him.
"A player that loves to play the game and is willing to really take any kind of coaching," said Martin, who first became interested in football when he was the ball boy for Shewl's high school team. "I've always been strong opinionated, but when it comes to coaching, I know that every coach that's coached me so far -- from here and probably the next level -- knows way more than I do, and you got to take it humbly."
And somehow, he does remain humble.
"I try not to let it get to my head," Martin said. "I know the coaches here sure don't let it get to my head. They're constantly making sure that I'm down to earth and that I'm not letting any of this media stuff and these coaches calling me get into my head and make me think that I've made it when I'm far from it."
Martin's attitude carries over to his personal life, and he made sure to start off on the right foot with his teammates-turned-friends at Grandview.
"I wanted to show them that I can play, too, and I'm not some selfish kid that thinks he's all that," Martin said about getting to know his new team. "It was more of meeting the guys and getting them used to me."
His approach worked, and Martin jelled with his new teammates instantly. His presence on the field can't be ignored, and his playmaking ability on both sides of the ball has helped Grandview jump to a 2-0 start. Martin says being versatile is an advantage and will help him in college.
"I'm a player that can do a few things on the field," said Martin, who has racked up a sack on the defensive side, and has rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries and scored a touchdown in the Wolves' first two games. "Some players go in, 'I just want to play one position all my life.' That's all they know."
Being willing to play different positions also has helped him with the transition to his new team.
"It's been great, it really has," coach John Schultz said. "He's fit right in with no bumps in the road at all, so the kids on the team love him."
That's not exactly true. There was a bump in the road: the Colorado High School Activities Association. The CHSAA has to approve all transfer students before they can play sports. Martin was able to participate in the Wolves' summer camps, but he had to be cleared before he could practice with the team.
On Aug. 27, the CHSAA approved Martin for the 2009 season. Schultz said the wait was worth it.
"That was just a matter of going through all the correct paperwork," he said. "With such a high-profile kid, they were just making sure everything was done correct, and we just all had to be patient."
When Martin did start practicing with the team, he joined a defense with an established reputation.
"Grandview's D has been known as the lights-out defense in Colorado," said Martin, who didn't know anything about Grandview football until three days before he moved. "It's an honor playing on it and knowing a lot of great players have already established it before you."
I came a little bit late to be a core leader, but when it comes down to it, they look at the big 6-5, 240-pound kid. What's he doing on the field? Is he pouting or is he sitting there still amped up trying to get back in the game? I just want to lead by example, and however far that takes us is however far we'll go.” -- Chris Martin
Martin is soaking up all the drills and lessons his coaches are teaching him to improve his game. Right now, he's working on running to the ball, and staying focused and keeping his endurance up during games.
"I feel like I need to play with a constant motor," Martin said. "Sometimes I can tend to play to the competition instead of rising and keeping a high.
"I'm working on learning, well, not really learning, but teaching ourselves the habits of playing a full game, having that will and that desire to play every single minute, every single down like you would if it was your last down."
Schultz says that when Martin shows that kind of desire, it's contagious.
"When he's playing hard, the energy he brings to the field is recognized by all," said Schultz, who added that Martin has become a leader in the short time he's been at Grandview. "And he's got a sense of when is the important time to get focused and be ready and be psyched up."
"I came a little bit late to be a core leader, but when it comes down to it, they look at the big 6-5, 240-pound kid," Martin said. "What's he doing on the field? Is he pouting or is he sitting there still amped up trying to get back in the game?
"I just want to lead by example, and however far that takes us is however far we'll go."
Martin believes he can motivate his team to play at 100 percent and their efforts will help them make a state championship run.
Grandview has only one returning starter on defense this season, junior Eddie Yarbough, and there were some questions about Wolves' defensive in the offseason.
Now those questions seem to have been answered.
"We knew we were going to have a good defense, and now we know again this year we're going to have a great one," Schultz said.
Julie Turner is a recruiting editor for ESPN.com.
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