I feel great. I don't have any concussion type of stuff. For playing as little as I did, the injuries still accumulated over the years, but I'm fine. I didn't join in the concussion suit, but it's up to each person. —Jamie Martin
Editor's note: This is the fifth of an occasional series spotlighting former athletes with ties to the state of Utah.
It's pretty hot and awfully humid this time of year in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country, Missouri, where sophomore Jack Martin is gearing up for the upcoming football season at Parkway West High.
He'll quarterback the junior varsity team and serve as a backup signal-caller for the varsity squad this year. But it appears the 16-year-old has the potential to develop into a solid QB someday.
After all, this kid inherited some great football-playing genes from his father — former Weber State star quarterback Jamie Martin, who spent 16 seasons in the National Football League. And young Jack, whose given name is Jackson, will also benefit from some excellent coaching from his dad, who now serves as the offensive coordinator on the Parkway West coaching staff.
Yes, coaching high school football is one way the 44-year-old Martin can give something back to the game that was so good to him for more than half of his life.
"He's a pretty good athlete," Martin said of his son, who Jamie started coaching when Jack was in the fifth grade and now stands 6 foot 1. "I don't know if it comes from me or my wife (Kelly). He's been around locker rooms ever since he was a little kid, and he's so serious about the game.
"It's been fun to watch him progress. He's handling everything well, and I think he's got a chance to be pretty good."
Well, his dad — a confident yet humble guy who, unlike many professional athletes, never had an oversized ego — was pretty darned good in his day, too.
Martin came to Weber State in 1988 following a stellar high school career in California, where he led his Arroyo Grande team to the California Interscholastic Federation championship.
The combination of Utah's friendly people, the natural beauty that the Beehive State has to offer, and the laid-back, low-pressure recruiting style of then-Weber State head coach Mike Price convinced the 6-foot-2, 205-pound teenage quarterback that this was where he wanted to spend his college career.
"I had taken trips to Pac-10 schools and other places, but those other schools were a lot more pushy," Martin said. "Coach Price told me, 'Take as many trips as you want. You've got a scholarship here if you want it.' And that was a big deal to me.
"Not only that, but when I took a trip out there, it was just so beautiful. I'm coming from California and the beach, and that was the first time I'd ever been in the snow and the mountains. I was ready to get away from home. Some people get homesick, but not me. I was ready to get out and experience something new, even as an 18-year-old.
"It was an awesome change for me. The people, the coaches, the kids I came in and played with, it was just a great situation all the way around. Coach Price was impressive, and his coaching staff — Mike Zimmer, Bob Petrino, Dave Arslanian — were all just good guys.
"Utah would put a lot of places to shame as far as its beauty, and the weather, it's just awesome for so many reasons," said Martin, who spent the offseason in Ogden for three or four years after beginning his NFL career but has lived in Missouri since 2001. "Leaving and then coming back, I appreciated the place even more."
Following the 1988 season, which Martin redshirted, Price left Weber State to take over as head coach at Washington State.
Arslanian soon took over the Wildcats' coaching reins and, with Martin running the show, what followed were some of the most impressive offensive fireworks in the history of Weber State's program.
In 1989, as a redshirt freshman, he played in eight games and put up modest numbers. But in 1990, Martin stepped into the spotlight and shined brightly, throwing for 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes as a sophomore. He led all of Division I-AA with 336.4 yards passing per game and in total offense that year.
But the best was yet to come. As a junior in 1991, Martin was downright spectacular, completing 62 percent of his passes for 4,125 yards and 35 touchdowns as the Wildcats earned a I-AA playoff berth. He again led Division I-AA in passing (375 yards per game) and total offense (394.3 yards per game), and Weber State's offense set an NCAA total offense record with an average of 578.5 yards per game.
In a game against Idaho State that season, Martin set I-AA single-game records for pass completions (47), yards passing (624) and total offense (643 yards), and in another game that year against Eastern Washington, he threw seven touchdown passes.
But performances like that aren't his best memories from his days with the Wildcats.
"Sure, those kind of games are real exciting," he said. "But really, when I look back, it's all the people I got to play with, the coaches I got to play for, and the friends I made.
"For me, it was always about what we did as a team. That's what I try to teach to the kids that I coach — give yourself up for this team and things will fall into place for you."
With superb performances like that, though, it's no wonder Martin was named first-team All-America and won the prestigious Walter Payton Award given annually to the top I-AA player in the nation.
Always played big
"The thing about Jamie Martin was whenever there was a big game, he always played big. He always did," said Arslanian, who was Martin's head coach all four years that he played for the Wildcats. "He always knew how to prepare and arrive at the stadium and have a great performance. The great ones always do that.
"He's the perfect teammate; you want him on your team. He never complains, he's always gonna work hard and when you call on him, he's gonna do the job for you. A lot of starting quarterbacks can be a pain in the butt, not Jamie. He wasn't a real vocal guy; he was one of those guys who let his performance speak for him. But you always knew he was gonna play well for you.
"He was always so consistent, just so consistent," Arslanian said. "He never played poorly for me, never had a bad game — never — and in the big games he always played big."
In 1992, Martin's senior season was solid, but his supporting cast was not as strong as the year before and his statistics suffered somewhat. Still, he threw for 3,207 yards and 20 touchdowns, again leading the Big Sky with 291.5 passing yards per game and earning third team All-American honors.
When he finished his college career, Martin was I-AA football's all-time leader in passing yards (12,207) and total offense (12,287 yards), which is still the school record and ranks second all time in the Big Sky. He piled up a Big Sky-record 87 touchdown passes, was a three-time Big Sky All-Conference selection and was twice named the league's offensive MVP. After his senior season, he was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl.
And when the Big Sky came up with its list of "50 Greatest Male Athletes" in the history of the conference, Martin came in at No. 9.
On to the NFL
Despite all his gawdy college statistics and success, however, the National Football League wasn't exactly knocking down his door.
Martin was not selected in the 1993 NFL draft, and he wound up signing a free agent contract with the Rams when they were still located in Los Angeles. He spent his first four seasons with the Rams' franchise — two in L.A., then two more when they moved the team to St. Louis — and played with the NFL Europe's Amsterdam Admirals in 1995.
"I remember the first time I suited up for a preseason game with the Rams," he recalled. "I grew up in Orange County, and the team moved from L.A. to Anaheim when I was a kid, so they were my team. And that first game, I went in the locker room and saw that jersey with my name on it. That was pretty cool."
Martin finally got to play in six games for the Rams in 1996, but his NFL opportunities were often few and far between — a theme that would follow him for much of his National Football League career.
"I don't have an explanation for why he didn't get to play more," Arslanian said. "For one thing, he didn't come into the league with the biggest, most physical stature — particularly at that time when teams were looking for those 6-4, 6-5 quarterbacks with the big arm.
"Throughout his career, it seems like teams thought of him as a backup and he kinda got locked into that role. But I'll tell you what — Jamie played at a high level every time he got a chance."
Martin's NFL career completion percentage — 65.6 — would certainly bear that out.
But he was forced to ride the bench most of the time in a career that would span 16 seasons and eight different teams — including three separate stints with the Rams (1993-96, 2001-02, 2004-05), as well as the Redskins (1997), Chargers (1997), Jaguars (1998, 2000), Browns (1999), Jets (2003), Saints (2006-07, backing up Drew Brees) and 49ers (2008).
There were some moments of glory for Martin, though. In 1998, on his first pass attempt with Jacksonville, he threw a 67-yard touchdown pass. He finally got his first NFL start that December, only to suffer a torn ACL that ended his season.
"Our starting quarterback, Mark Brunell, went down in a game against the Lions, and I came in and we won and clinched the division," Martin said. "My contract was up at the end of that year, and everything was falling into place.
"It was gonna be awesome. I made my first start in our next game, and we were playing the Tennessee Titans. We're up and it's close to halftime, and we're running the two-minute drill and I'm running out of bounds to stop the clock when a guy hit me and tore my ACL — and I was done for the year.
"But that's sports," he said philosophically. "You deal with situations like that year in, year out. It teaches you to learn how to overcome obstacles."
In his second stint with the Rams, Martin made a couple of starts filling in for the injured Marc Bulger and wound up throwing for 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002, a year after the Rams reached the Super Bowl behind the play of league MVP Kurt Warner, who was injured for much of the '02 season.
In all, as an NFL quarterback, Martin completed 355 of 541 passes for 3,814 yards and 20 touchdowns, with 21 interceptions.
Many people would look at Martin's NFL career and figure he'd feel frustrated and unfulfilled. But he doesn't look at things that way.
"There are different ways to look at that, but I look at it from the glass-is-half-full side," Martin said. "I'm so lucky to be able to do it all and be in the right place at the right time to be able to pursue that career and be able to do it for so long.
"I had to make it there, nothing was given to me, and it wasn't easy. But I earned my spot for 16 years, and guys around the league respect that. They think that's pretty cool that this guy was able to earn it every year and be able to do it for so long. Maybe I wasn't starting every game or setting records like I did in college, but there's still a level of respect there.
"When I look back at it, I'm proud of what I did," he said. "Once you get to the NFL, it's a lot different than high school or college football, because it's all about doing it for yourself, earning your spot, and keeping your spot because, hey, that's your living."
And Martin doesn't carry any hard feelings despite the fact that he never really got an opportunity to show what he could do as a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL.
"Once you get with a team, it's up to you," he said. "The NFL's all about competition and if you prove you can do it, they're gonna keep you. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from because coaches' jobs are on the line and they're gonna find guys who can do the job for them. You have to do it every day in meetings, practices and minicamps — you're competing for a job every day, not just on Sunday."
Unlike many former NFL athletes who played when he did, Martin is not plagued by concussion syndrome issues that have become so prevalent and brought about a megamillion-dollar lawsuit settlement.
"I feel great," he said. "I don't have any concussion type of stuff. For playing as little as I did, the injuries still accumulated over the years, but I'm fine. I didn't join in the concussion suit, but it's up to each person.
"My personality and the way I am, yeah, I probably had a few concussions along the way. But I knew what I was getting into. Every year, I knew this is what I signed up for, so, in my situation, I'm not going to go cry sour grapes after the fact. I'm just appreciative of the opportunity I had to play in the league."
Nowadays, he spends his time living a good life with Kelly, his wife of 20 years, sons Jack, 16, and Andrew, 9, and 11-year-old daughter Ally.
And when he's not helping coach Jack's team, he plays the drums in a dad-band, Explode the Moon, which performs at various fundraising functions in the area.
"When I retired in 2008 with the 49ers, I took over coaching my son's fifth-grade team at the time," Martin said. "So I've been coaching that group of kids since they were in the fifth grade. Then the high school coach approached me and asked me to take over the offense, and here I am. I love coaching the kids. It's a great outlet for me and a way to give back to the game.
"Playing in the band is another one of fun things I do now. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine talked me into picking up the drums and we started up a little band. It's easier to do that than talking to your wife and telling her you're gonna go spend the whole day at the golf course.
"I'm not a serious musician," he said. "But I've got all this free time, so we play at charity things like a school fundraiser where they're building a new playground, just fun stuff like that. We do it to help people out and to have fun ourselves. We started out as a three-man band; now we've got five guys and a waiting list to get in. We play family-friendly music, '80s stuff, rock, stuff people can identify with. We're all over the place.
"And we get to pretend like we're rock stars."
From record-setting college quarterback to a 16-year NFL career that he survived with his health intact, and now he's a rock star?
Yes, life's been mighty good to Jamie Martin.
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