ASU's Grant Martinez looks to continue traditions in Tempe

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s always good to make your father happy.

Earlier this year, one of the newest Sun Devils was able to do just that.

“When he found out that I was coming here, it was the proudest day of his life,” said Arizona State tight end Grant Martinez.

Martinez’s commitment to Arizona State continues a family tie to the university. His father Matt is an ASU graduate and major supporter of the team.

“He was going to be happy wherever I went, but as soon as I told him that ASU was my place, he was ecstatic,” said the younger Martinez. “He loves his Sun Devils. He is always supporting them and coming to games.”

While family was a factor in Martinez’s decision, it was far from the only one. 

Martinez was rated a three-star prospect by all of the major recruiting services, and held offers from a dozen schools, including Cal, Oregon State, Utah, and Iowa State. What set ASU apart from the rest—beyond proximity to his Scottsdale home—was an offensive system that caters to his skills, and a philosophy that speaks to him as a person.

“Going on all of my recruiting trips, ASU definitely provided me with the right tools and assets to become successful,” Martinez said. “The coaching staff preached character, passion and Pat Tillman, and I love all of that. Staying home was a pretty easy choice. I love Arizona. Watching what Chris Coyle did last year made it even more known that I was going to come here and be a great tight end.”

Since Todd Graham took over at ASU, he has made keeping the top in-state high school talent, like Martinez, home. During the recruiting process, Martinez did not feel any pressure to stay “home”, but he does believe that his commitment and some other recent high-profile additions to the program, could help make ASU the go-to destination for Arizona’s top prep stars.

“It was a non-factor,” said Martinez of the pressure of staying in-state. “Being able to stay here, hopefully some other local talent will see that and say ‘Hey, I want to be a part of ASU’. You see D.J. Foster and Jaxon Hood as Freshman All-Americans and being the pride of Arizona and the hometown heroes. With guys like that coming here, other kids are going to notice that. Coach Graham and Coach Norvell are preaching the right things, and they are going to want to stay here in Arizona because we’ll be winning Rose Bowl championships and national championships.”

The message that Graham was and is preaching resonated from the start with Martinez. The delivery was also important, as his new head coach’s passion was the first thing that Martinez noticed during their initial meeting.

“His passion. Sitting with him at lunch and talking to him, you’d think he’d be pretty casual, but he’s just fired up talking about the things they want to get done here,” Martinez said. “Winning in every aspect of life. That just got my heart beating and fired up for Sun Devil football.”

On the field, Martinez brings some intriguing tools to the Sun Devil offense. 

As a senior at Notre Dame Prep, Martinez was the team’s top receiver with 43 catches for 561 yards and nine touchdowns. He currently checks in at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, and his soft hands and height make for a potentially nightmarish match-up for defensive backs.

“I think I can bring my receiving abilities to the table. I think I can go out there and make some plays for us in the red zone, tear up some defenses and find some holes.”

His skill set should be an excellent fit for the team’s offensive scheme. The 3-back spot, in which Coyle set a school tight end record with 57 catches in 2012, showcases the player and his athleticism in a number of ways that appealed greatly to Martinez.

“The way they use the 3-back: Moving around, motioning inside and out,” Martinez said. “Going to skill development and watching Chris run routes, I just see how the holes open up. They really find a way to get the 3-back the ball.”

Beyond his physical talent, Martinez’s growing relationship with Coyle may turn out to be the most beneficial asset for the freshman this year.

“It’s awesome. Chris is a great guy,” said Martinez. “He’s helped me a lot. I look up to him a lot. I want to play like him. He goes to film with me. He talks to me through practice and guides me on what I need to do. He corrects me all of the time. I really appreciate all that he’s done for me.”

Among the first challenges facing Martinez, who will wear number 88 for ASU, is learning the complexities and speed of his first collegiate offense.

“It’s a different speed up here,” Martinez said. “There are no huddles. Recognize the play call, get in your spot, and get ready to go right away. It’s speed and timing and learning the offense.”

Due to a few factors, Martinez’s roster status for the 2013 season is yet to be determined.

ASU not only returns the record-setting Coyle to the tight end spot, but valuable blocker Darwin Rogers also comes backs for his senior season. In addition, the team signed redshirt junior De’Marieya Nelson, a very talented an athletic junior college transfer, in this year’s recruiting class. 

Beyond a crowded depth chart, Martinez also must add some more bulk to his 210-pound frame. Whether those two factors result in a redshirt in 2013 or not, Martinez’s commitment to the larger goals is unaffected.

“I’m going to go out there and compete and work as hard as I can to help this team win in any way. If it comes to redshirt, I’m OK with that. I realize that I need to get bigger. I just want to help this team win a Rose Bowl.”

Whether he sees the field this year or next, Martinez has set forth lofty goals fo rhimself and his new team.

“I want to be a Freshman All-American this year,” said Martinez. “Team wise, Rose Bowl, Pac-12 championship, national championship. I just really want to win here. I haven’t won in high school. It’s definitely something I’m shooting for. Over the years, I want to be the best tight end, All-American. I want to get drafted and to get a degree here.”

Now that he has made his father proud, Martinez is hoping that over the next few years, he can spread that Sun Devil pride across the country.

“The last few years, Sun Devil athletics have not been the best. It makes me hopeful that we’re going to bring pride back to Arizona and Tempe, and to show the nation that Arizona State is the place to be.”

Martinez in action