Height and weight minimums can prevent a young kid from riding a rollercoaster, sitting in the front seat or even getting on a bicycle.
But minimums weren’t a problem for Crenshaw High product Marcus Martin. Martin’s setbacks, while few, were the reverse.
Because his genes are made Extra Large. Dad Gary is 6'4, mom Latonya is 5’11 and one of his siblings Mark, a former defensive end for Crenshaw, is 6'0.
“I always attracted a lot of attention, point blank period,” Martin said. “[But] people have said they’d get bullied or called fat jokes, that never was me.”
Since an early age, the incoming USC guard stood out. But carrying a mammoth personality that matches his size, Martin said he rarely came up short in life.
Except in one thing: football.
“The weight limit [to play] was probably 130 [pounds],” Martin said. “I was 180 [then].”
So Martin didn’t take the field until the summer after the eighth grade. His brother Mark, a volunteer defensive line coach at Crenshaw High took him to Crenshaw to play. In high school, ‘minimums’ began to be ostracized and Martin soon became valuable.
“He comes from an environment that was not conducive to football,” said longtime Cougars head coach Robert Garrett. “To say that, he never had an opportunity to play Pop Warner because [the Martins] were big kids. Initially it was a problem but in the end it was a positive.”
Like his current 6-4, 340-pound frame, Martin has huge potential. His confidence, optimism and drive are just some of his most obvious strengths.
“I think where I come from- a lot of people from around here- they’re very nihilistic, they’re so negative. That negativity motivated me. Every time I look at these people, walking around, begging, it hurts to see that,” Martin said.
Rare to hear a 17 year-old use the word ‘nihilistic.’ Reporting a 3.2 grade point average, Martin prides himself on his intelligence and his work ethic.
“I dropped from 375 pounds to 340 in about a year,” Martin said. “Why sit around when you can get better? I’m in this game, why not go hard?”
During the years he wasn’t earning the nickname Pancake by “smashing the run game,” he was reading in book club, taking roll for his student government or studying for his Advanced Placement classes.
“I always had an interest in knowledge, always wanted to know as much as I possibly could,” he said. “In the process of being active you gain a lot of knowledge.”
The youngest of five siblings-ranging from 36-years old down to 17-Marcus is the only Martin to play football at the college level.
“What I’ve always told him is use football as an instrument to go to college,” said dad Gary Martin. “Don’t just say ‘I’m going to college to go to the Pros,’ go to college to get your education.”
Martin intends to do both, among other achievements. He said if, however, professional football doesn’t work out, a career as a financial advisor on Wall Street would do just fine. Martin plans to major in economics and minor in business.
“I planned on going to college and just studying. But I was just blessed, I can’t say it just came naturally to me but with hard work and dedication and seeing Crenshaw alumni go to the [NFL], that set the mode for me. I was like ‘that’s kind of neat,’” Martin said.
Following in the footsteps of Crenshaw alum Brian Price and Brandon Mebane would be neat. What would be cooler, Martin thinks, is making an impact on the Trojans’ depleted offensive line right away.
“Don’t sleep on Marcus Martin and [incoming tackle] Aundrey Walker,” Martin boasted. “We’ll be the right guys for USC football in 2011-2012.”
The possibility of starting as a true freshman has been talked about before—there is little possibility. Four true freshmen have started on the Trojan’s offensive line.
“I have no problem making a statement like that because it will happen,” Martin said.
But if even a spot were available, there are quite a few freshmen in competition for one, like Bakersfield native Cody Temple and All-American lineman Cyrus Hobbi and Walker, Martin’s new roommate.
With quick feet and moderate speed for a big man, does the boisterous Martin have enough tools to bolster him ahead of his incoming class?
“He’s a technician,” Coach Garrett said. “I think he’s ready, he has all the skills. He worked extraordinarily hard this spring to be ready [for USC].”
The 20th ranked guard in his class is used to making proclamations and seeing results. Admitting he wasn’t a good football player until the 11th grade, Martin set goals soonafter.
He wanted to win a City Section title. The Cougars won it in 2010.
He wanted to be All-City first team. Check.
He wanted to be All-State Division 1 first team. Check.
He wanted to be All-L.A. City Offensive Lineman of the Year. Check.
“He’ll survive in any condition, in any environment, he’ll do well,” Garrett said.
Equipped with a giant frame and massive dreams, Martin’s options seem limitless. If he can bring that alleged fire to his game, and do it consistently, little will restrict Martin. Except maybe those rollercoasters. They, unfortunately, have maximums too.