Record-breaking defensive end Marcus Martin brings 'total package' to Slippery Rock
Relentlessness is one of the reasons Slippery Rock senior defensive end Marcus Martin broke the career record for sacks in NCAA Division II.
Sometimes, though, enough is enough.
"It's frustrating," Rock quarterback Tanner Garry said with a laugh. "There are times (in practice) where you almost want to tell him, 'Hey, man, give me this play to try to get the ball off.' His motor is always going."
Martin, a West Mifflin graduate, has 50 career sacks and 83 tackles for loss, both D-II records. He is 31⁄2 sacks away from tying the all-divisions record held by Mike Czerwien, a North Hills graduate who played at D-III Waynesburg from 2002-04.
"I don't know that there are many of him at any level," said Cal (Pa.) coach Gary Dunn, whose team lost to Slippery Rock, 47-44, in overtime Saturday, with Martin making a key sack in overtime. "He's the total package. He plays nonstop."
As a two-time PSAC West Defensive Player of the Year and three-time D-II All-American, there's zero chance opponents don't account for Martin every snap. Garry said sometimes when the team is watching film, four offensive linemen are blocking Martin at the end of a play. Yet despite all the attention, he leads D-II with 91⁄2 sacks this season and has helped No. 12 Slippery Rock start 5-0.
"One thing I've definitely gotten better at is football IQ: understanding offenses and being able to predict things before they happen and being able to read backfields," Martin said.
At 6-foot-1, Martin is considered short for a defensive end. That's one of the reasons he didn't receive a Division I scholarship offer. Also, the NCAA said one of the classes he took in high school wasn't considered a core course, which put his immediate eligibility into question. So he attended Slippery Rock, redshirted and dominated from the start. He recorded a school-record 16 sacks and earned PSAC West Freshman of the Year.
"There's no question he could be starting at Pitt or anywhere else in the country," Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz said.
NFL scouts are taking notice, too. Lutz said someone from about 25 teams has attended a game or practice thus far to evaluate Martin, who has added 20 pounds since coming to college and weighs 255. The height might scare away some pro teams, but Lutz said others are being more open-minded.
"The myth is that a defensive end in a 4-3 (defense) has to be 6-4 or 6-5," Lutz said. "A lot of these teams are saying if you can pass rush, we can't coach that. I don't care what defense we play."
An invite to the NFL Scouting Combine and a postseason all-star game likely await Martin, but he's not looking ahead. After all, another record is waiting to be broken.
"Right now," Martin said, "I'm focused on just producing."
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.