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Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Plenty of choices for 2014 prospect Martin

By Sam Khan Jr.

MANVEL, Texas — On the wall across the Manvel (Texas) High School locker room and weight room, there is a poster with the words "Hoka Hey."

Though the term's original meaning was "It's a good day to die," when Crazy Horse let the Sioux to a victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, around Manvel High, it takes on a much more amiable meaning. Specifically, it's used to symbolize teamwork. At the top of the poster are the words "Hoka Hey = Play Unselfish."

Koda Martin
Four-star prospect Koda Martin could play tight end, offensive tackle or defensive end in college.
Manvel 2014 prospect Koda Martin takes the meaning to heart and tries to live it every day he's on the football field.

"That's what I live by," Martin said. "I'll do whatever my team needs me to do to win."

Martin, who plays defensive end and tight end for the Mavericks, is asked to play on both sides of the football. While that's not uncommon for high school players across the country, Martin is intriguing and perhaps unique because power college football programs are recruiting him at not two, but as many as three different positions, depending on the school.

Alabama coaches have told Martin if he were to come to Tuscaloosa, Ala., it would be his choice to play either of those two positions: defensive end or tight end. LSU and Oklahoma like him as a tight end. Baylor and Texas like Martin as a defensive end. Texas A&M and Texas Tech like him at another position that he has not played at the high school level: offensive tackle.

At 6-foot-6, 247 pounds, it's clear that schools across the country like the four-star prospect and want him on the field somewhere. Ask Martin where he wants to play and his humble nature takes over.

"I don't really have a preference in my position," Martin said. "They're all different. I enjoy playing defensive end and tackling people. I enjoy playing tight end and catching the ball and running people over. If I end up playing O-line, I like blocking people too. I'll try to dominate there. I just really enjoy football. All three positions are pretty different. It's hard to pick a favorite."

It's just Martin trying to exhibit the "Hoka Hey" mentality.

"I try not to be too selfish or anything," he said. "I definitely enjoy getting the ball but I tell my coaches 'Wherever I'm needed to win, if y'all want to throw it to me and let me run somebody over I'm eager to do that. If y'all want me to tackle the quarterback or stop the run I'll do whatever I need to do there.'"

ESPN scouts see Martin's best potential at the offensive tackle spot. In his scouting report, it is noted that "Martin brings some versatility to the table and could contribute to a team in more than one way, but we feel his greatest upside is as an offensive tackle. He will need more time to develop in that role, but in the long run could prove much more valuable at that position."

Just as his options are plentiful in terms of where he lines up at the next level, his choice of colleges is wide open as well. In December, Martin declared that Oklahoma and Texas A&M were his top two choices. But as his junior year wore on, more schools entered the picture. LSU offered. So did Alabama. Plenty of other notable programs threw their hat in the ring as well, programs like Florida State, Nebraska and Stanford.

Martin's top two has now grown to a bigger number. His top group now includes Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. His stated timetable to choose a program is late this spring or early in the summer.

Ask him about dealing with the attention and he doesn't talk about the stress that comes with it. Instead he focuses on the positives.

"I just try not to worry about it and try to enjoy the process because it is definitely a blessing and there's tons of kids that wish they were in my shoes," Martin said. "I feel blessed. Sometimes it can get a little bit stressful when you think about all the great schools that have offered and how I'm going to say 'yes' to this one and turn that one down or say 'yes' to that one and turn this one down. I just try to keep working hard and when the time comes I'll have peace about one place and make a decision."

Martin, a coach's son (his father, Kirk Martin, is the head coach at Manvel High) leans on his faith for guidance. Another poster near the football locker rooms is a Fellowship of Christian Athletes poster. Koda is an active participant and the Martins have even hosted fellowships at their home.

"This could be happening to anybody," Martin said. "I'm really blessed with my size and my ability and I just feel like God could have given all this talent to anybody and I just feel lucky that he gave it to me so I try to stay humble and treat others better than myself and compete but still love my team and love those players and try to make an impact."

When he thinks about the position he's in with all the choices available to him -- from where to line up to which power college program to choose -- he can't help but smile.

"It is nuts," Martin said. "The blessings keep piling on. It's awesome."