Eric Martin, the 6-foot-2, 232-pound, three-star middle linebacker from Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, Calif., has narrowed his choices to three schools and has one official visit left to take.
Martin, ranked as the No. 17 middle linebacker in the country by Scout.com, says he’ll choose either Arizona, Arizona State or Nebraska and he visits the Sun Devils on Jan. 30. “I’m really interested to see what the football is like at Arizona State,” Martin said.
“I’ve talked to a few guys who’ve visited them like (five-star middle linebacker) Vontaze Burfict (from Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., soft commit to USC) and he really liked it,” he said.
“But he said it was the social life that stood out,” Martin said. “He says it’s a really fun place and that’s not really what I’m looking for.”
Martin insists his focus on finding a college is strictly about football. “I’m not worried about my social life,” he said. “That’ll come wherever I go. I want to go to the best program and the best place for me to get looked at by NFL scouts. I want a big program that plays top teams and has prestige. Even if they aren’t winning that’s okay, as long as they are losing to the best teams in the country. I also want to play my freshman year. Even if it’s on special teams. I just want to play.”
He says he’s eager to see if Arizona State meets his criteria. “I just want to see how serious they are about football,” Martin said. “I also want to make sure I can fit in there with all the players and coaches.”
Fitting in is something that Martin says he had no problem doing at Nebraska, where he visited on Jan. 24, despite their distance from California. “I’m not too worried about the distance,” he said. “I think the transition would be hard, especially considering going from the sun to 40 degree cold, but I think I’d get used to it. I’m going to college to play football, not for the weather.”
His player host for the Huskers was fellow Californian (Huskers junior wide receiver) Menelik Holt (from St. Augustine High School in San Diego, Calif.). “Since he’s from California we talked a lot about that,” he said. “We talked about the distance and the weather and what it’s like getting used to.
“He showed me around and I really felt welcome,” Martin said. “It was snowing when I was there and that was my first time in snow, but it still kind of felt like home. I really like how Nebraska recruits all around the country. They have guys from all over and it’s a really good mix.”
But the thing that impressed Martin the most about the Huskers was their fan support. “It’s a real football college and college town,” he said. “There’s nothing else around there. All they do is play football and focus on football, which is great.”
In fact, Martin admits that he wasn’t expecting to enjoy his visit to Nebraska as much as he did. “I was actually really surprised how much I liked it there,” he admitted. “The town is great and even the campus is set up for football. Everywhere we went people were talking about football.
“It was cool because we’d walk around the town and go into stores and they’d ask us if we’re football recruits and stuff,” he said. “I’m not really used to getting that kind of attention.
“Win or lose, they love Nebraska football there,” Martin said.
Besides Lincoln, Martin says he also enjoyed getting to know the Huskers coaches as well. “The coaches are crazy and like to have fun with each other,” he said. “They aren’t stuck up and always serious. They are pretty laid-back and cool and treat you like a friend. I also like how they told me my chances of playing early are real good. They said they’d even put me on special teams which would be fun.”
So how did the Huskers compare with his first official visit to Arizona (on Jan. 16)? “Arizona was a real good visit too,” he said.
“It was a lot of fun,” Martin said. “Tucson is a nice city and I actually think of Arizona kind of being like a smaller Nebraska. At Nebraska you have the whole state following you, at Arizona you have Tucson.”
So what else stood out about mini-Nebraska? “It’s a great area,” he said. “I love how Tucson is surrounded by mountains.
“Plus you drive through downtown or go into a restaurant and you’ll see people wearing Wildcats hats or t-shirts,” he said. “They have great support too, plus the weather is really nice.”
Martin says he’ll make his decision after his official visit this weekend. “When I get back, I plan on calling all the coaches one more time,” he said. “After I get to talk to them I’ll make my decision. It’ll probably be next Monday (Feb. 2).”
Although Martin denies a leader, he admits that the Huskers will be tough to beat.
He says he also had offers from Washington, Washington State, Nevada and Boise State, but felt his top three were recruiting him harder than the others. “These guys were showing me the most love the whole time,” Martin said. “They really want me and never backed off at all.”
Martin says he never followed a specific team as a youngster. “I actually never really liked football,” he said. “I played backup fullback in Pop Warner and wasn’t very good so I never got into it. Then in ninth grade my friends talked me into trying out and I was actually good and liked it.”
Martin finished his senior season (10-1) with approximately 150 tackles, four fumbles caused and two interceptions (one for a touchdown). He says he can bench 345-pounds, squat 510 and claims a 32-inch vertical jump.
“I’m a sideline-to-sideline linebacker,” he said. “I use my speed well off the edge and I can find the ball. I have great vision and am very physical.
“My coaches tell me that I need to work on staying low when making contact with blockers,” he said. “I guess I stand straight up too much and need to keep my pad level down.”
Martin says he plans to major in sports broadcasting/marketing or culinary arts in college. He reports a 2.8 core GPA and took the SAT on Dec. 6, but says he isn’t sure of his score (around 800) and will retake it next month.