West Mifflin's Martin eager for Big 33 game
Marcus Martin has the athleticism to be a Division I football player.
He has the speed and quickness to be a Division I football player.
He has the resume to be a Division I football player: Big Nine Defensive Player of the Year, two-time first-team all-conference and three-year letterman.
And if Martin was 2 inches taller, he would be a Division I football player.
Instead, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound West Mifflin defensive end falls into the dreaded recruiting category of “tweener.”
“If he had a little more height, they would've been all over him,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “It just scared some people away.”
Organizers of the Big 33 game weren't scared.
Martin will start at defensive end for Pennsylvania during Saturday's 56th annual Big 33 Football Classic at Hersheypark Stadium against Maryland. He'll share a field with 32 players who will play for Division I programs in the fall.
“I believe I am athletic enough to play Division I,” said Martin, who signed with Division II Slippery Rock. “But nowadays you have to be the stereotypical 6-4 to be a defensive end. But really, the D-I people are no different than me. They just got a better opportunity. They are doing their thing, and I am doing my thing.”
Clairton's Tyler Boyd and Titus Howard are the other players from the area participating in the Big 33.
Martin is the first West Mifflin player to be selected to the Big 33 since Josh Bostic in 1998, and he plans to take the opportunity to show that he can compete with the best.
“I am going harder in practice and am more mentally prepared for the game than some of the guys who are going to a huge school and aren't too worried about it,” Martin said. “I have to do well, and I have to play my heart out.”
Martin led West Mifflin to an 11-2 record and a berth in the WPIAL AAA championship game, but big-time colleges were interested in possibly switching him to linebacker but didn't want to take a chance on somebody who never played the position.
“If I would've played linebacker in high school I think I would've had a better a chance,” Martin said. “It is what it is, and I am happy with where I am going. I have no problems with being 6-2 right now.”
Some schools even wanted to use Martin as a fullback or an H-back. As a senior, he had 13 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns as a tight end in the run-happy Titans offense.
But it was his defensive play that got him invited to the Big 33.
“Not too many kids get the opportunity to play in the Big 33,” Braszo said. “He is anxious with what he can do against the best in Pa. and Maryland. When you are an underdog, you always want to prove something.”
Martin, who arrived in Hershey on Sunday, said he is soaking in the experience.
“I feel like I am a celebrity out here,” Martin said. “I've worked hard up until this point, and I've told myself to treat it like every other game and play as I always play.”