The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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76 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 BY JOHN BORTON N ot every champion comes away bearing a massive ring. Some qui- etly wipe away a trickle of blood with unadorned fingers and battle on. Mike Martin's Michigan football journey proved as adversity filled as any over the last several decades. He overcame, and continues to do so with an upbeat outlook and resil- ience to spare. The former prep wrestling and shot put state champion out of De- troit Catholic High School dreamed of becoming a Wolverine, winning championships and exulting in The Big House. He still recalls the day he earned his "dream come true" scholar- ship offer from head coach Lloyd Carr. Carr wasn't destined to be the head coach when Martin arrived in Ann Arbor, opting to retire following the 2007 season. Martin's freshman campaign oc- curred in 2008. He reopened his recruitment upon learning of the impending coaching change. He looked at Notre Dame and other schools, but a talk with Carr brought him back. "I had a conversation with Lloyd about that," Martin recounted. "He could have easily just said, 'Stick with Michigan, you can't go wrong.' But he was very blunt and straightforward with me, which I respect to this day. "He said to me, 'Mike, I don't know this guy [Rich Rodriguez]. I don't know what his philosophies are or how it's going to be. What I do know is what this school stands for and how it's been in the past. "What's never going to change is the opportunities you're going to cre- ate for yourself by going to a school like this and connecting with the guys that you're going to create a bond with while you're here playing and when you graduate.' "That's what you're going to have, for sure. It's a special place." Carr stressed the "essence of Mich- igan," beyond football. "At 16 years old, all I was focused on was winning games and being on TV," Martin said. "That stuff is fleeting, and that's not the most im- portant thing." Not that winning games doesn't matter. Martin quickly discovered how much it hurt not to do so. As a true freshman starter at nose tackle, he experienced a brand of Michigan football he'd not known. "I tell people the story of the tran- sition, watching Michigan and how much success they'd had my entire childhood," Martin explained. "I got the chance to go to the school, make it happen for myself and be part of the long-tenured success. "And my first year is the worst football season that Michigan had had. We don't go to a bowl game. All these things changed. I'm like, what the heck. How is this my luck? What's going on? "I was really frustrated. We just went through three years of a really tough situation. Not winning, and not anything of what I thought it was going to be. But we stuck through it. We went through so much struggle and pain. "A lot of guys transferred and quit. Looking at all that, I was thinking what's going on? This isn't how it's supposed to be." During those three seasons, Mich- igan went 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6. Martin became a bright spot on some dimly lit defenses, an Incredible Hulk-like figure without enough help. He made 20 tackles in the middle of the maelstrom as a rookie, earn- ing Freshman All-America honors. As a sophomore starting nose tackle, he posted 8.5 tackles for loss among his 51 stops to earn his first of three straight Richard Katcher Awards as U-M's top defensive lineman. He added 2.5 sacks among 37 tack- les as a junior, despite offenses con- sistently pummeling him with mul- tiple blockers, en route to All-Big Ten second-team honors from the league coaches. "As an athlete, I'm trying to figure out what I'm able to do," he said. "Then it's like, I can do this and do it really well. As each year went on, I got more of a grasp of it. "Then I took over. I didn't have to ask myself what I could do. I knew I could do this. I'm going to kick ev- eryone's tail when I get out on the field. No one is going to block me. "If I have to make every single tackle, I'll do that. I was always around the ball. It's just the mindset that I had." Martin sees a kindred spirit on this year's Michigan squad — fifth year senior defensive end Chase Winovich. "He reminds me of myself with his motor," Martin said. "That guy never stops. He never, ever stops, and that's the mentality you've got to have as a D-lineman. "Coach [Greg] Mattison always said: 'All the best players I've been   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Mike Martin Became A Profile In Toughness After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the media and coaches in 2011, Martin was a third-round pick (82nd overall) of the Tennessee Titans in the 2012 NFL Draft. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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