Martin’s story proves that anything is possible
When Andrew Martin finished his senior season of football at Fairview High School in Boulder in the fall of 1998, he was nothing more than a backup tight end who played on special teams.
I know, because I was a senior with him on that team myself.
Of the 22 starters on that Knights team, six accepted Division I scholarships, while two others settled for priority walk-ons at CU and CSU, respectively.
Martin, meanwhile didn’t even make the all-county team. As a college football prospect, he was a shoe-in to be a stand-out equipment manager. Craig Ochs, our Parade all-american quarterback in high school, was destined to be a future college star, and possibly make the NFL. D.D. Cox, our tailback in high school was tabbed as the next Barry Sanders when he passed up CU to sign with Oklahoma State.
But Martin, well, he should’ve wised up real quick and realized that college football was for some people – and he wasn’t one of them.
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Martin never got that memo, though.
In the fall of 1999, he walked on at the University of Northern Colorado as a spindly, 180-pound tight end. The tight end who started over him in high school, Joe Merrill, got a priority walk-on at CU, and was projected as a possible future scholarship athlete.
Past making the team in Greeley, Martin was projected as a tackling dummy for the Bears. Little did anyone know that someday he would be the team’s starting left tackle, captain, a four-year letter winner, a three-year starter, and a legitimate pro prospect.
The only big thing about the no-name from the big-name high school in 1999 were his dreams, and those weren’t going to get him past the scout team.
At 6-foot-3, Martin had the frame to be a good football player, he just didn’t have the bulk.
So, he started to eat and lift a lot. Not three-big-meals-a-day a lot, but 6,000-calories-a-day a lot. He also continued to use muscle building supplements – something that he had started doing in high school – and focused on pouring every last speck of energy he had into his workouts.
After a redshirt freshman year, Martin began seeing the field in 2000 as a reserve. In 2001, he became a starter at left tackle, after ballooning past tight-end weight.
Ochs, who graduated a year after him, was already starting as a true freshman at Colorado in 2000 and was projected to break all of the Buffs’ quarterback records by the time his four years were up. Cox and high school guard Mike Johnson, who were also a year behind Martin and I in school, were already moving their way up the depth charts at OSU and Kansas State respectively, after red shirt years.
And Phil Bland, the lone sophomore starter on that ’98 Fairview team, was already making waves at the Division I level, becoming the first true freshmen since 1997 to start for the vaunted Black Shirt defense at Nebraska in 2001 at safety.
Martin continued not to worry abut what his former high school mates were doing in the college ranks, though. He just continued to worry about himself; constantly working on his speed and strength, incessantly poring over game tape and his playbook, continually focused and relentlessly driven.
In his first year as a starter, the Bears improved to 7-4 after stumbling to a 4-7 mark the year before. In his junior year of eligibility in 2002, the team finished 12-2 and won the conference championship.
Last year, in its first of a four-year transition from Division II to Division I-AA, the Bears finished an unheard of 9-2.
When his Bears career was all said and done, Martin had earned honors as a second team I-AA Independent selection and an All-Colorado pick.
Much better than the postseason awards was the reality that his career in football wasn’t all said and done – something that couldn’t be said for more than half of his high school teammates who played college football.
NFL scouts were interested in him because of his nimble feet and his athleticism. They liked that at 305 pounds, Martin still ran like a tight end, but could flatten defenders like a lilly pad.
He took visits to Tampa Bay and Buffalo. He talked with coaches from Houston. He readied himself for a phone call on Day 2 of the NFL draft in the later rounds.
And, even though he didn’t get to see his name called on ESPN, Martin took calls from seven teams later that night before deciding on a free agent contract with the Houston Texans.
Last week, Martin was in Houston at his first mini-camp with the Texans, having made the move from tackle to center. Although he is not guaranteed to make the team – he still has to make it through training camp – he is, unlike his former, vaunted, blue chip, high school teammates inside the NFL looking out.
Ochs transferred to I-AA Montana and is a long shot to make the league next year. Bland’s career is over after a repetitive ankle injury forced him to quit football. Cox and Johnson still have one year of eligibility left, and still have a good shot at the pros, if there is such a thing. Merrill quit after one year at CU.
Truth is, I don’t know if Andrew Martin really cares.
It would seem that if he had lived his life off what he did in high school, he would have believed he was destined to be a nobody, something he has repeatedly proven since that he is not.
When my hometown newspaper in Boulder got a hold of Martin after he headed off to mini-camp two weeks ago, he explained his meteoric rise by saying, “I guess I was a late bloomer.”
Then, he talked about following in the footsteps of another great Fairview lineman, six-time Pro Bowler Tony Boselli, who just retired from the Texans last year.
Seems to me like a good former alum to model yourself after.
Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com