By Emily Dobrowski, Titans Online
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Although Mike Martin lacks prototypical height for a NFL defensive tackle, the Detroit native's accomplishments and ambitions are far from undersized.
The 6-foot-1, 306-pound rookie substitutes his comparative lack of height with strength and has been honing his technique with the aid of the Titans coaches throughout training camp. Sustaining him throughout camp is a drive for achievement that has facilitated his successes in endeavors uncharacteristic of most professional defensive tackles.
Unbeknownst to many, Martin is a championship dog handler, earning National Junior Handler of the year with his Rottweiler, Magic, when he was 15 years old. However, upon entering Detroit Catholic Central High School, he retired this unique hobby to focus on athletics and academics. The decision paid off for Martin, who earned between a 3.0 and 3.2 grade point average his final three years of high school.
Martin's determination persisted past academics and athletics into the fine arts sector as a member of his high school's marching band.
Although he jokingly remarked that he could not speak about his participation in the marching band around his Titans teammates, Martin prided himself in his enjoyment and success in playing the saxophone.
"I was in the Symphony Band and Jazz Band in high school all four years. During the games, I was in the marching band and would play at halftime and then would continue to play in the game."
To the contrary of his success in academics and fine arts, his eminent ability was his athleticism and his subsequent pursuits.
Martin's high school coaches credited his distinctive work ethic for his improvement from a mediocre shot putter to a fifth-place finisher in the Division I state meet during his first season on the track team. He completed his final track season his senior year setting a state shot-put record of 63 feet, 9 inches.
His athletic accomplishments extended into the wrestling ring, where he won a state championship as a rookie wrestler his junior year of high school. His wrestling experience translated to the football field, helping him during his career with the Michigan Wolverines from 2008 to 2011.
In Ann Arbor, Martin was a household name, totaling 172 tackles during his career, and he earned Michigan's Richard Katcher Award for the team's top defensive lineman in both of his junior and senior years.
Once more, he would not allow his reputation to be limited to his athletic ability, launching a YouTube series toward the end of his junior year of college with the aid of his friend and fellow Michigan graduate Ryan Doyle, chief visionary officer of the production company Video Vision 360. What initially began as a senior memorabilia project quickly progressed to a popular, viral video series around campus, in which Martin actuated viewers to become a "category of one" by "separating yourself from others and being more unique and different than any who has come before you."
Martin plans to continue his video series, yet his priority remains football. He says that his goals for his first year in the league are "to get ample playing time…and to play the best I can."
As a senior team captain for the Wolverines, he led his team to a 23-20 overtime victory in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech and was voted second-team All-Big Ten by coaches and media.
The Titans chose Martin as their third-round pick with the 82nd overall selection. Although he is in the preliminary stages of his professional career, Martin's tenacity has been evident to defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
"He's really trying to learn how to do it correctly and do it right at a high level," says Rocker.
Despite the Michigan graduate's enduring determination and obvious improvement, Martin's development has not been completely linear, as acknowledged by Rocker.
"He does revert to some of his habits from college. … He was an elbow guy in college."
Rocker explained that this tendency is common for rookie players, especially in this Tennessee summer heat.
"A lot of times you stop shooting with your hands and start shooting with your elbows to hold up, whereas we need to always shoot your hands at the line of scrimmage."
While Martin is accustomed to prosperity on the football field, he is currently vying for playing time against 15 other defensive linemen, including veteran defensive tackles Jurrell Casey, Karl Klug, Sen'Derrick Marks, and others who have had successful training camps thus far, according to Rocker.
Despite the level of competition, Martin distinguishes himself from his defensive teammates by his unusual strength. At the 2012 NFL Combine, Martin completed 36 bench presses of 225 pounds, the third highest of the participating defensive linemen.
"Well, one thing with strength, strength is no problem for Mike Martin. I don't think we have enough weights around here for him to lift," jokes Rocker.
As he enters the highest phase of his football career, Martin will need more than motivation and sheer strength to solidify himself as a powerful NFL defensive tackle. Nevertheless, it appears as if his strength coupled with his doggedness and willingness to learn could fortify him into a valuable and unique contributor to the team's defensive line rotation in the upcoming season.