North Forrest’s Michael Martin has been called “Lil Mike” by his family since he was a one-year-old. Contrary to the nickname, Martin is anything but little and has, in fact, played a large role for the Eagles throughout his football career.
Martin, who is 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, has played an array of positions for North Forrest, which includes defensive line, offensive guard, center, halfback and the team’s kicker.
Martin made the jump to varsity football in the eighth grade as a defensive lineman, which he considers to be his primary position.
“He started on the defensive side for us,” North Forrest coach Anthony Dillon said. “We moved him up after the junior high season as an eighth-grader. He got a lot of playing time on the defensive side of playing football. That seems to be the side that he has more interest in. I tell him that a guy with his athletic ability and size playing small-town football, we can’t afford to let him play one side of the football. He’s bought into that. He’s a guy that wherever we need him that he is willing to help us.”
For Martin, the initial transition to varsity was not as easy as a young eighth-grader.
“At first it was really rough,” Martin said. “Practicing after school and the conditioning was tough, but I got used to it.”
Eventually, Martin began playing on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Eagles, which according to him, was easy since it had been something he had done throughout his early career.
“It was a smooth transition because I had been playing that most of my life, so it was nothing that was a big problem for me,” Martin said. “(Playing center) was easy too.”
In his first two seasons as a defensive lineman, Martin acquired over 100 tackles. However, Martin’s role changed as North Forrest struggled with roster size and injuries, and he was asked to play some halfback and go out for passes, in which he scored two touchdowns last year.
“We’re low on numbers on certain spots, and he is very athletic,” Dillon said. “We were just trying to be creative and find ways to get the football to him in the scheme that we were trying to implement.
“It was back to the basics, and you have to run a system that fits the type of players that you have. Looking around, I tell my offensive coordinator that we don’t have the spread type, and we had to go to a more traditional pro-style run-first offense. We couldn’t find that fit for a natural fullback. We know that Michael can move real well, so I was asked about trying him there one day in practice. I thought he moves well enough maybe it’ll scare some people.”
For Martin, lining up as a skilled player is just an enjoyable experience since most lineman may never score a touchdown in their entire careers.
“I think it’s cool to be a big boy and play like that,” Martin said. “I just cherish the moments every time I play it.”
In fact, Dillon believes that Martin’s 40-yard dash is at 5.3 seconds, which would mark Martin as the fifth fastest offensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft. As a defensive lineman, Martin’s 40-yard dash would still be faster than several NFL draftees.
Last season, Martin continued to be a multitool for the Eagles after begging his coaches to show off his kicking skills.
“He always begged (to tryout),” Dillon said. “At a small school that’s something you always struggle to find, is somebody who can kick the football. I always tell them that if they think they can do it, then I’m not going to waste time at practice. We’ll do it after practice. One day him and one of his friends stayed after practice, and he begged, and I said, ‘alright, let’s see what you got.’ He hit a few times, and it’s not as consistent as I would like to be, but the first one was better than anything we had. With all that weight behind him, we saw, and we invested in a kicking shoe. That made a big difference.”
On kickoffs, Martin averaged 39.9 yards per kick with a long of 64 yards and was for 3-for-7 on PATs. For the upcoming season, Martin says that he has concentrated on becoming more accurate with the ball for kickoffs.
“On a PAT, I’m just concentrating on one spot with the ball and placing it,” Martin said. “For a kickoff, you have to worry about the onside, deep kicks and trying to find the best angles and where to place the ball.
“Before we start practice, I’ll get a few kicks in with my coach, the defensive coordinator. I try to make sure (my kickoffs have) enough air because I don’t want to kick it to the most dangerous guy on the field.”
According to Martin, his speed comes naturally, but he places most of his concentration on staying in shape for the 2020 season since he could play upwards to 100 snaps per game.
“My main thing that I focus on is getting in shape by lifting weights and all that,” Martin said. “I’m a big boy, and I have to find that energy to be able to go defense, offense and special teams. That’s why I have to focus on my conditioning.”