Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 JANUARY 2020 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK A s an unranked four-star recruit, Zack Martin was considered the 22nd-best of- fensive tackle prospect in the class of 2009 according to Ri- vals. He was expected to be a quality lineman when he committed to Notre Dame, but one of the best offensive guards of the next decade? It's hard to imagine anyone foresaw that coming. At the end of November, The Athletic released its NFL All-Decade Team, en- capsulating the top player(s) at every position for the 2010s, which was deter- mined by a vote from the publication's staff of profes- sional football writers. In a split decision, Martin, a cur- rent member of the Dallas Cowboys, was named the second-best guard offensive guard of the last decade. This is a feat made even more im- pressive by the fact that he did not start his NFL career until 2014 and was able to be evaluated on his play for only 60 percent of the decade. Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ra- vens was named the best offensive guard of the decade, but he was in the NFL all 10 years in that time. Still, several of The Athletic's writ- ers, including Ted Nguyen, thought it was best to put Martin ahead of Yanda. "With Martin, he was so dominant at his position for a stretch," Nguyen said. "He was the ultimate technician as a run blocker and pass blocker, and one of the only linemen able to block Aaron Donald one-on-one without looking foolish half the time. He's one of the best athletes to ever play the position. To me, Yanda wasn't as dominating but part of what makes Yanda so good is his versatility and longevity." Martin's career accolades back this up. He's been named an All-Pro by the Pro Football Writers of Ameri- can four times, more than any other offensive guard, including Yanda. When it comes to Pro Bowl appear- ances, Yanda does have more this decade than Martin with seven, but Martin has played in the NFL's end- of-the-season all-star game in each of the first five years of his career and seems to be a shoo-in to make it in 2019. It was just one season, but Martin was also the lone offensive guard in the NFL Network's 2019 list of Top 100 players, which is voted on by the players in the offseason. Mar- tin has been on the list each of the last three years, while Yanda made it from 2014-17. In his sixth season, Martin contin- ues to play high-level football. While playing 907 snaps through 13 games, he's been on the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week twice, he hasn't given up a sack all season and he has a PFF grade of 89.1. "Martin has played 60 pass-block- ing snaps in a single game only twice in his career — with the second com- ing in Week 13," Ben Cooper of Pro Football Focus noted. "And both times, Martin hasn't allowed a single quarterback pressure. Volume clearly isn't an issue for the sixth-year guard out of Notre Dame." Even if Martin is able to continue this level of play well into the 2020s, it will be difficult for him to be named to an All-Decade team in 2029. But, if he's able to combine his overall dominance with Yanda-like longevity, any- thing is possible. IRISH IN THE NHL Ten former Notre Dame hockey players have now appeared in the NHL this season after rookie defense- man Andrew Peeke made his Dec. 5 debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He joined Anders Bjork (Boston Bruins), Ian Cole (Colorado Avalanche), Dennis Gil- bert (Chicago Blackhawks), Vinny Hinostroza (Arizona Coyotes), Anders Lee (New York Islanders), Kyle Palm- ieri (New Jersey Devils), Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh Pen- guins), Riley Sheahan (Ed- monton Oilers) and T.J Tynan (Colo- rado Avalanche). Peeke, selected by Columbus in the second round (34th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, also becomes head coach Jeff Jackson's 21st former Notre Dame player to make it to the NHL and the program's 35th overall. He is the first Irish player to debut this season after last season featured debuts by goalie Cal Petersen (Los Angeles Kings) and Gilbert. ✦ Zack Martin Receives Another Honor Martin, a current member of the Dallas Cowboys, was rated as the second- best offensive guard of the 2010s and earned NFL All-Decade Team accolades from The Athletic. PHOTO COURTESY DALLAS COWBOYS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK 15 HIGHLIGHTS • Romeo Okwara (Played at Notre Dame from 2012‑15), DE, Detroit Lions: Notched three tackles, one sack and a quarterback hit in the 3-10-1 Lions' 38-17 loss to the Bucca- neers … Through 14 games, he had 26 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble. • Harrison Smith (2007‑11), S, Minnesota Vikings: Recorded six tackles (one for loss), one interception and a fumble recovery in the 10-4 Vikings' 39-10 win over the Chargers … Has compiled 80 stops, three interceptions and two forced fumbles through 14 games. • Golden Tate (2007‑09), WR, New York Giants: Hauled in a 51-yard touchdown re- ception in the 3-11 Giants' 36-20 victory ver- sus the Dolphins … Has 38 receptions for 512 yards and five scores in eight games played.

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