"This was my first year of watching American football. I honestly didn't know anything about it," said Coleman, who is fluent in English although Tongan is his primary language. "When I got here I just went over to the football program and now it's crazy to have all this recruiting attention, it's a dream come true".
Coleman was a natural athlete in Tonga who has played rugby since he was eight years old and he is also an accomplished swimmer and track performer. He attended Vavau High School on the tiny island of Vavau in the Kingdom of Tonga after being born and raised in Tonga to an American father and a Tongan mother. It was his father who suggested that Martin relocate to the United States to help prepare for his future.
"Dad wanted me to move to the states for my education because there's not much going on in Tonga. Hopefully I will be able to send money back to help my family there. It's hard sometimes because my whole family is back there, all my family and friends."
When Coleman arrived in the U.S. he moved in with his sister and her husband before enrolling at Edison and quickly adjusting to his new sport. In his first year of playing the game he was named 1st team All Sunset League in one of the toughest leagues in Southern California while playing the right tackle spot. He will move to left tackle next fall in an effort to improve his overall game experience while his coaches will also have him learn the assignments for all the line positions.
"The physical part of football comes naturally to me, during a game it just comes to me," says Coleman. "I love contact, I like pushing people around. A lot of what you do on a football field has rugby influence, every technique is a little bit of rugby mixed in with football. I need to work in the weight room on my strength. I've got brute strength but not weight room strength. I squat 390 and bench 275."
Coleman doesn't have time for rugby these days with a schedule that includes football workouts, academics and track (shot put and discus, he's still learning the spin move). He also will soon have to deal with the increasing number of colleges that will be courting him as well as the spring and summer camp season.
"So far I'm hearing from New Mexico, Nebraska, Miami, Colorado, Ole Miss just offered, USC, Fresno State and UCLA. I don't know anything about colleges so I want to go through the process and see which place might be the best for me. I do have a top 5 schools so far and they are USC, UCLA, Miami, New Mexico and Nebraska. I plan to attend the Nike Camp, the USC lineman Camp and USC junior day. I will also go to the Miami Camp and the Notre Dame camp."
Coleman has taken note of the many Tongan and Samoan players on the USC roster and says he is looking forward to meeting many of those players as the recruiting process goes along. He also singled out last year's Heisman Trophy winner as a player he enjoyed watching "I like Reggie Bush, who doesn't? The dude is just crazy man. He's pretty cool."
At the college level Martin plans to major either in kinesiology or "something to do with studio art. I like to draw, I draw random stuff, anything. I play the guitar too, mellow stuff like Jack Johnson style. Island music, some reggae. That's how we do it in the Islands, we celebrate with a guitar."
So far Coleman says the transition to the United States has gone well although he admits to missing certain foods from back home.
"I miss the way we mix certain roots with meat, it's really good. I like the food here too, I like Mexican food and Chinese, I love steak."
He likes comedy movies and says he gets a lot of help with his homework from his sister, a pediatrician who has lived in the U.S. since 1991. His transition has also been helped by the fact that his sister lives in an area close to the water.
"In Tonga my house was 10 feet from the sea and I smelled it every morning. I was always in the water, it's just natural. I surf too. Huntington Beach is close to the sea and it's got pretty good waves. It's a good place to be."
Martin Coleman has definitely found a good place to be, both in terms of his new homeland and his future in a sport that could give him a chance to attend a major university and play big time college football. He will surely be a recruiting prospect to watch for the Class of 2007.