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Brackenridge's Martinka readies for national football showcase

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Dominic Martinka, 14, prepares to travel to Miami Beach to represent the Highlands Hornets in a national showcase football game for soon-to-be freshmen.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Dominic Martinka, 14, prepares to travel to Miami Beach to represent the Highlands Hornets in a national showcase football game for soon-to-be freshmen.

Though he'll soon compete in an event that touts itself as a national showcase for young football players, Dominic Martinka comes across as a standout with his head in the right place.

The pride of the Highlands Hornets Youth Football Organization's most recent 13-and-under team will head to southern Florida later this week to participate in the National Prep & Youth Football Association's inaugural Rising Freshmen All-American Game, which is July 6 at North Miami Stadium. He hopes to improve his chances of one day earning an athletic scholarship for college. But he also recognizes that the game does not provide him anything more than an opportunity for exposure — soon to be a freshman at Highlands, the Brackenridge native knows he must earn playing time with the Golden Rams like any other newcomer.

“I'm all about being a team player,” said Martinka, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound running back and linebacker for the Hornets who projects as a wide receiver and defensive back in high school. “I wouldn't have scored any touchdowns without my line. … I wouldn't even be at this All-American game without my coaches and all of the players.”

Jeff Tatusko, the offensive coordinator of the 13-and-under Hornets, watched Martinka, a member of the organization for more than seven years, thrive last fall. In the Greater 28 league championship game between Highlands and Lower Burrell, Martinka rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries for the Hornets, who lost, 28-26.

“He's able to do things athletically that we've never really seen down here,” Tatusko said. “I think he's a kid you're going to hear about during the next few years.”

When Tatusko received an email from the N.P.F.A. inquiring about any players interested in the All-American game, he forwarded it along to his star running back's family.

Martinka, with support from his parents, Gary and Jaymie, headed to Hershey for a combine tryout March 10. There, Martinka showcased his abilities in the 40-yard dash, the 5-10-5 shuttle run, the three-cone agility drill and the medicine ball push as well as in one-on-one, two-on-two, five-on-five and seven-on-seven game situations.

He viewed the event, which 50-plus other boys attended, as a trial run. Another combine was scheduled in Pittsburgh later in the spring, so Martinka knew he had multiple chances to make the North All-American team.

He needed only one try.

His mother received word that he made the team April 30. She called him to deliver the news while he hung out at a friend's house.

“I smiled the whole way home,” Martinka said.

He attended the Pittsburgh combine, held in Sewickley on May 19, anyway. He improved his marks in almost every drill. Most notably, his 40 time dropped from 5.0 to 4.72 seconds.

Martinka heads to Florida — a state he has never visited — as one of the team's few Western Pennsylvania representatives. Other locals include New Brighton's Malik Shephard, Rochester's Caleb Collins and Beaver Falls' Derrell Carter. In addition to playing in the game, the boys will attend a pool party and a dinner.

“Definitely win,” Martinka said of his goals for the experience. “Support my team. Contribute. Make big plays. And definitely hit hard; that's the Hornets' motto.”

Martinka ranks football first among the many sports in which he excels — track and field, a sport in which he stars as a jumper and sprinter, is second, followed by basketball and baseball. No matter the time of the year or the circumstances of the football game, he's just eager to play.

“I just have that heart and love for the game,” Martinka said.

Added his father: “He's always smiling out there. He's like Hines Ward in that way.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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