Persistence A Virtue For Tiger Football Player

Editor's Note: This is the fifth part in the series of feature articles on lesser known Auburn football players who hope to become key players for AU in 2005.

Auburn, Ala.--It was a routine fall practice in what was anything but a routine football season for the Auburn Tigers when a visitor to the practice field marveled at the distance that Kody Bliss was booming his punts that day.

There was no doubt that the Auburn punter was putting on a show, however, the player the visitor was watching wasn't Bliss, a junior who is expected to be one of the SEC's best this year.

Instead, the visitor was watching his understudy, little-known Patrick Martyn, a walk-on, international business major from New Orleans with a big leg.

While Bliss arrived at AU with a reputation as one of the best kickers in Tennessee high school history, Martyn showed up as an uninvited walk-on after a solid high school career in football and soccer at Jesuit High in New Orleans.

"I never was recruited or anything like that, but when I came to Auburn there was something in me saying, ‘Why not give it a shot just to say you did it?' I don't want to be 30 years old saying, ‘What if? What if?' I decided I had nothing to lose."

Martyn, a high-energy personality who was given the nickname "Sparky" as a youngster because he was always doing something, was not easily discouraged when he found out that he wasn't wanted when he first tried to walk on to the team. Former administrator Eldon Hawley, who was dealing with the uninvited walk-ons when the punter first tried to try out for the team, told Martyn the team didn't need any more walk-on punters.

"People kept telling me no, but I decided I was going to be determined and keep going for it," the punter says.

There is no men's soccer team to try out for at Auburn so he gave football another shot in 2004. When Martyn got the opportunity to show what he could do last season, he had a number of strong days punting the ball in practice. He entered the season as the No. 2 punter behind Bliss and stayed there, a position he is expected to keep this fall.

"Kody is obviously the starting punter," Martyn says. "He's a really good punter, a great punter. He has had the position since he was a freshman so I am not going to come in and play right away. I understand that.

"I really want to get good enough to where I can be the solid backup because there are only two punters on the team right now. I had to work my way up to get to this position. I want to be solid enough so the coaches can send me into the game with no problem if I am needed."

Martyn began playing soccer at home in New Orleans when he was very young with the encouragement of his father, who was born in England and raised in Ireland. He taught Patrick the fundamentals of kicking and the youngster soon developed a very strong leg. Although he was really undersized when he first started playing football, he found his niche as a punter until he grew larger as a high school athlete and played cornerback and safety.

"My dad has pretty big thighs and I have pretty big thighs, which has helped me in kicking since I was little," notes Martyn, who is 5-10, 198 pounds. "With dad living in Europe, soccer is so big over there that I grew up playing it and developed a love of the sport. When I was little, they always said I had kind of a golden leg because I could kick the ball so well."

Martyn used that leg to help Jesuit High win the state championship in soccer as a senior. In football, he was a two-year starter as a punter, who also played some free safety as a senior. However, there were no athletic scholarships waiting for him in either sport.

When it was time to make a choice, Martyn narrowed his list to home-state LSU and out-of-state Auburn. "Growing up I wasn't an avid LSU like everybody usually is there, but I liked LSU," Martyn notes.

Staying in state meant he could take advantage of a Louisiana lottery-based academic scholarship. However, after giving it careful consideration, he decided he wanted to travel farther from home.

"All my friends and about everybody I know was going to LSU," Martyn says. "It would have been like 13th grade--high school all over again. I would have seen the same people for four more years, but I decided to do something different. I really like Auburn and I am happy I am here."

Auburn is close enough to New Orleans that is not a tough drive to get back home from time to time. Martyn says he especially enjoyed coming home for the holiday break last year as a member of an unbeaten, SEC championship football team that was preparing to play Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in downtown New Orleans.

"Running out of the tunnel for the Sugar Bowl game in my hometown was definitely a highlight for me," Martyn says. "It was a great experience with my family there to see it. It was such a privilege to play on the great team we had last year and the bowl game was such a good game. The whole thing was one of the best experiences of my life."

Martyn, who still answers to his long-time nickname of "Sparky," says he used to tell people he got it because he was nearly electrocuted when he was a youngster. However, the real story is that his aunt decided that young Patrick was a hyper-active child and the nickname just seemed to fit.

Martyn says he is looking forward to his second season as a college football player, even though he will probably have to be content to get his kicks in practice. However, if something happens to Bliss and a punter is needed, Martyn should be ready to get the job done for the Tigers.

Article Four, Nathan Farrow

Article Three, Matthew Motley

Article Two, Chas Crofoot

Article One, Jamoga Ramsey

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