Martin Says Illinois Felt Like Home

Zeke Martin knew as he drove into Champaign for the first time -- he was home.

Zeke Martin knew Illinois was the place for him as he pulled into Champaign.

The farms, the roadside businesses, the college-town feel — it reminded him of where he came from.

"It was kind of just like home," the Medina, Ohio native said. "As soon as we drove in, I saw this medium-sized country town, and I loved it. Then I saw the campus, and it was beautiful. I liked it all."

Martin made his first-ever trip to the University of Illinois last weekend. He knew pretty quickly it was where he wanted to play college ball.

The 6-5, 280-pound offensive lineman liked every aspect of the Illinois experience.

"I talked with all the coaches and they're great people,"Martin said. "The players were pretty cool, too. Everything made me feel comfortable."

The coaches, specifically the way the staff recruited him, made Martin's decision even easier.

"They talked to me, like, every single day," he said. "They gave me advice to help my team in high school and just to make me a better person. That had a big impact on my decision. You have to have good people around you if you want to thrive."

With offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo and others, Martin says his game has progressed "head over heels" since last season.

"I was an under-the-radar player as a junior," he said. "For whatever reason I didn't get as much publicity as some of the other recruits. I'm alright with that though because I feel like I'm going to be even better my senior year. That's pretty much how I feel about it, the rankings and all that."

Martin knew what he wanted to do during the trip. But he returned home first to think it over and talk to his folks. He had lunch with his dad and coach on Wednesday. They both gave him their blessing.

"We decided that Illinois was home and that it was where I needed to be," Martin said.

Illini o-line coach A.J. Ricker and linebacker coach Mike Ward were the primary recruiters in contact with Martin. Ward was the one Martin called on Wednesday to deliver the good news. Ward quickly handed the phone to coach Tim Beckman, who then passed it along to Ricker.

The reaction was as you could imagine.

"Oh, they were really happy because they let me know the o-line was a big piece that they needed to recruit this year and get stronger."

Ricker let Martin know guard or center are the positions that best fit when he gets to Illinois, but right tackle isn't out of the question either. Any option suits Martin, he says, because he feels comfortable playing anywhere along the line. His recruitment took off in May and ended in June, but Martin said the whole process was and still is fun.

He recently joined a group text with fellow Illini 2015 offensive lineman commits Gabe Megginson and Adam Solomon. Martin says he already feels like a part of the team.

"We've been texting about helping build the future at Illinois," Martin said. "We want to get connected to the fans and do everything we can to win a lot of games."

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