Martin embracing high expectations

A month before signing day ASU was not among Steffon Martin's favorites, and being that it was the last school to offer the Arizona Western College LB ASU's chances to land Martin appeared less than promising. However, in the short time he was pursued a strong bond was formed between Martin and the new Sun Devil staff that ultimately landed one of ASU's more significant 2012 class additions.

"Back in January I started getting recruited by (Arizona State's defensive coordinator) Coach Randolph," Martin recalled. "He said that he was looking for a linebacker that is all about hard work and dedication. I really liked him because he always kept it straight with me. He's a Christian and I liked that about him too.

"He really reminded me of my coach at Pike High School, and I just felt that this was the best place for me."

The Arizona Western College linebacker commented that under the previous ASU staff, he received just a few recruiting letters and was never pursued in earnest by the team. In fact, very few schools truly recruited Martin following his freshman year in Yuma, so when the first offer the Indianapolis, Ind. native received came from Purdue in July of last year, he decided to end his recruitment. Yet, he eventually re-opened the process just five months later.

"They were the first school to offer me and they were close to home," Martin explained. "But later on I felt that there might be a better option for me out there so I decommitted from Purdue."

Arkansas, Oregon State and Texas A&M were some of the other schools who vigorously recruited the linebacker who in turn took visits to all three programs. Martin also visited Ohio State who didn't extend an offer.

Paul Randolph was officially hired by ASU on January 9th, and when it came to Martin's recruitment he was certainly able to hit the ground running.

"I never knew that Arizona State was going to recruit me," Martin said. "I had one (official) visit left so I was able to visit them. I didn't jump on them right away because I had a lot of offers so I knew I had a lot of thinking to do going through all of my options.

"Me and Coach Randolph had that connection. He's one of the biggest reasons I came to Arizona State. I just always felt a good vibe from him."

The Sun Devils were the last visit for Martin and suffice to say this visit is the one that made the strongest impression on him, but ultimately ASU had to beat the linebacker's hometown school – the University of Indiana, before Martin rendered his decision a day before signing day.

"It wasn't really hard to decide and I wasn't too worried about staying close to home," Martin remarked. "No one really wants to be away from their family, but at the same I know they can see my games and they supported my decision."

As a sophomore at Arizona Western, Martin collected 108 tackles including 17 for loss, as well as two interceptions and one forced fumble. He ranked among the nation's top-20 junior college players in total tackles. The linebacker was selected First-Team All Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and All-Western States Football League.

"I played linebacker only one year in high school," Martin said. "I played running back for most of my life and also played safety and defensive end. Because I played running back it helps you play at linebacker because you know what the tendencies of that position are, the passing routes and how the offensive line plays. Playing different positions definitely helped me overall."

The 6-2 243-pound Steffon Martin reported a 40-time of 4.51 seconds, and in the weight room he recorded marks of 390 lbs. benching, 575 squatting, and 315 in the power clean.

His physical attributes and skill set naturally draw comparisons to former linebacker Vontaze Burfict who left Tempe following his junior campaign last year to enter the NFL draft. Martin knows that it's inevitable that many will view him as the one to assume Burfict's role at middle linebacker.

"You can't replace anyone, because everyone is different," Martin said. "Vontaze was obviously a good player, so when I come there I want to do my part and make as many plays as possible. But I don't get caught up in all that talk about replacing Vontaze. I just worry about my abilities and my skills.

"I'm confident in my abilities and I can play in any system, either the 4-3 or the 3-4. I just need to watch film and learn my assignments. I have good speed and power, and I'm good at reading plays and formations. I know I can improve on everything and I need to not think too much and just go out there and play."

In a previous interview Randolph stated that he was confident in Martin's abilities and his chances of making an early impact.

"Steffon is a smart and explosive football player," Randolph said. "He's a real student of the game with his dad being a former NFL player. He knows what it takes to be a quality linebacker. We want players that are committed, have a high football IQ and are explosive and Steffon brings all of that. He's a more mature player, who brings good size and speed and is mentally ready to step into the Pac-12 and play.

"He will compete for a starting job right off the bat and he's a guy that is capable of earning that spot at strong side inside linebacker."

Before and following his commitment, Martin talked extensively with former Arizona Western teammate and current ASU tight end Darwin Rogers, who was a mid-year transfer as well as senior linebacker Brandon Magee, to gain insight on his new team.

"I think Brandon and I have good chemistry," Martin noted, "and he said if we all work hard we'll have a good season. Darwin just got there a few months ago and talked about the good vibe he was getting. He was enjoying it more than junior college and said that Coach Graham has a good vision.

"Him (Rogers) going there did help me lean more towards Arizona State and it's nice that he's there, but in the end I really picked the school for myself."

Martin, who arrived in Tempe a couple of days ago, will begin workouts with the team tomorrow and start summer school classes on July 5th. His Arizona Western teammate, and fellow Sun Devil newcomer safety/linebacker, Chris Young, is scheduled to join him at ASU in the next couple of weeks.

"Chris committed before me and we knew that we wanted to go to the same school," Martin described. "So when he committed to Arizona State I was obviously thinking about doing the same. We both felt that this was the best place for both of us."

Expectations regarding Martin's contributions in the 2012 season are high not only because of the natural anticipation coaches have of junior college transfers, but also for the need to shore up a depleted ASU linebacker corps.

"I just want be a hard working player that brings a lot of effort," Martin said. "Of course I want to start right away because my expectations from myself are high too, but you have to stay humble and work hard to earn that."

Recruit Profile

Name

Steffon Martin

Junior College

Arizona Western

Position

Linebacker

Height

6-2

Weight

243

Date of Birth

1/22/92

Birthplace

Indianapolis, Ind.

Favorite TV Show

"First Take. I'm a Stephen A. Smith guy."

Favorite Movie

"I have two. Remember the Titans and Menace to Society."

Favorite Singer

"Lil Boosie."

Favorite Food

"Anything my momma cooks."

Favorite Drink

"Apple juice."

Favorite Athlete

"Ray Lewis."

Favorite Pro Team

"Philadelphia Eagles. I also like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Angels."

Person you most admire

"My mother. She never let me down and showed me what it's like to be a true woman and a strong individual."

First Football Memory

"I was eight years old playing Pop Warner. I was pretty big for my age so I was playing with kids two years older than me. I started out playing guard but later the coach switched me to running back."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"I'm a clean freak."

Why did you choose ASU?

"I just got a good vibe from this school and knew that this would be the best place for me to come to. It feels like home."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"I just want to be successful in life. If football doesn't work out I want to be an ESPN Analyst."


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