Cottonwood Lineman Places BYU In Top Three

Every year, the state of Utah seems to field some of the top athletes in the country, and the 2009 class will be no different. The names Suafilo, Heimuli and Crichton, for example, have received quite a bit of recognition and publicity. Yet for another highly recruited lineman also tops within the state, BYU is simply "different" than the rest.

It is reported that big John Martinez currently holds offers from Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Utah and BYU. And although he's been to various camps and has even attended various college programs as far away as LSU, Martinez feels BYU is a good place after visiting the campus for Junior Day.

"Yeah, I had a lot of fun," said Martinez of BYU's Junior Day. "Me and my friends all thought that BYU was really good. There are people out there that may think BYU sucks, but once you get to that place, it's just a whole different story."

Martinez, who is not LDS but lives an exemplary lifestyle, mentioned how some may think that BYU is only a good place for those of the LDS faith. However, he said that BYU is a good place for everyone who shares similar values regardless of where they come from or what faith they hold dear.

"I don't know why people think that," said Martinez. "They just think, ‘Aw, it's just a whole bunch of Mormons,' and stuff like that, and everyone just thinks they're just another Utah football team, but they're not. BYU is a different place and they have a great coaching staff that I really like. Coach Kaufusi and Coach Mendenhall are two really great coaches that care for you outside of football."

John Martinez was born into the Kaufusi family. However, his wonderful father Steve Martinez and Steve's wife adopted John to be their son as a member of their family. Still, John Martinez looks up to Coach Kaufusi as an uncle and a mentor and feels he is someone who cares an awful lot for him.

"Steve Kaufusi is someone who has always been there for me," said Martinez. "He's almost like a second dad or an uncle to me. He's always pushed me to do better."

So what is it about Coach Mendenhall that has endeared him to his heart?

"Coach Mendenhall is just a great guy who tells you like it is," said Martinez. "Whenever he talks, you can just feel how much passion and how much feeling he has. It's really unbelievable. Mendenhall is just real with everybody. I also liked how Bronco Mendenhall pushes you to do well, both physically and academically."

Through his communication and interaction with Kaufusi and Mendenhall, Martinez has seen a display of attributes he hasn't found among others in the same field.

"I really like it when coaches are there for their players," Martinez said. "Every coach is going to tell you that they're there for their players, but no one can have a relationship like you can have with the BYU coaches, you know. They're not going to tell you they want you there just because you're a good football player. They want you there because they feel they can make you a better person.

"It's kind of like if one of your best friends has a personal problem. You're going to help them out not because they have something to give you, but because you really want to help them get through the problems that they have. It's the same way with BYU, you know. They're going to help their players get better so they can help other members on the team."

Martinez and his father were in attendance at BYU's Junior Day last Saturday. Like many who attended, Martinez came away impressed with the day's activities.

"I always like going up there to BYU's Junior Days," Martinez said. "They're always so welcoming and friendly. It's always been a great experience going up there to BYU."

Martinez recounted a few personal highlights from the day's activities that stuck out in his mind.

"I really like their weight room because it reminds me a lot of our weight room [at Cottonwood High School]," said Martinez. "I also like their strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer. He's pretty cool.

"When Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he wasn't going to recruit you, but that he was going to educate you, it was like he was saying, ‘I'm not going to kiss your butt.' It's like he's not going to say, ‘Oh please come, please come.' He's saying, ‘We have these facilities and this is my program and I hope you like it.'

"When he said, and I kind of knew this before but it really helped me, that you work for something greater than just yourself, [and] when you get better you do so to get better for the person next to you, that's what I'm all about too. I love working for my players."

Coach Mendenhall opened up his presentation with an effort to establish a sense of credibility among those in attendance. He mentioned how many in attendance may not know him very well and thus might not believe in his words. To establish trust and believability with his audience, Mendenhall read from an issue of the Ensign the words of the late world-renowned LDS Church leader Gordon B. Hinckley. As one who is not a member of the LDS faith, what were Martinez's thoughts on that matter?

"I don't know, I had like a funny feeling, you know," Martinez said. "It was a good feeling but it was like, ‘wow.' It was an overwhelming feeling. It was incredible how he read all those phrases from Gordon B. Hinckley, you know."

Martinez has become familiar with the recruiting process early, having visited campuses and spoken with many college coaches, and he can tell you that BYU definitely has a unique quality about it.

"BYU is just different and unique," said Martinez. "That's why they're one of my top three. I've been to LSU, USC, Oklahoma State and Utah, and BYU is just a different place every time I go there. I don't know, I can't really put a finger on it.

"When I was visiting LSU, all they talked about was being focused on being good at football, but they also focused on appreciating it and being humble about it. I just think everyone feels that LSU is kind of more popular, you know."

Martinez received his scholarship offer from Utah while visiting the Ute football facilities, but indicated that the U of U did not leave much of a lasting impression on him.

And what was his opinion of his Oklahoma State visit?

"Oklahoma State is a really nice place, you know," Martinez said. "It's a topnotch place, like their horseshoe stadium. Over there they focus more on how pretty they look instead of how they're actually playing."

Having been to many campuses and spoken with many coaches, what is the biggest difference that he's seen between BYU and other universities?

"BYU is more like a family and they work more on what's best for the players," said Martinez. "I know I'm saying this over and over again, but it's really hard to put my finger on it. BYU is just so unique; it's just really hard to explain. Also, nobody talks about academics like BYU does, you know."

Having quite the list of schools to choose from, with more to surely follow, which three schools would Martinez currently place in his top three?

"They're not in order yet though," said Martinez. "I would say Oklahoma State, BYU and USC are my top three."

Martinez has visited the Trojan campus and been on their practice field during a camp.

"I went to their camp and it was pretty cool," said Martinez. "Their coaches are also pretty cool as well. I liked the experience, but it wasn't as good as hanging out back home at the Junior Days. The only thing I liked better about USC than BYU is the beach."

Martinez is grateful and feels blessed to have scholarship offers to play at the next level. When asked where he would rate the Cougar program on a scale between one and ten, Martinez chuckled and said, "I would rate them a nine or an eight. I'm very blessed and I'm very thankful too."

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