Before Blake Martinez was a sleek 237-pound rookie linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, he was a pudgy high school defensive tackle.
“I was like 265 playing D-line as a freshman,” Martinez said on Friday, following the first practice of the Packers’ rookie orientation camp. “And then I transitioned from my freshman to sophomore year, I started working with a trainer and I went from 265 to 225. I lost 40 pounds and became a linebacker, and from that point on I’ve just been super-strict on my diet.”
So strict that he hasn’t satisfied his sweet tooth since arriving at Stanford four years ago.
“I don’t drink soda. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t eat sweets anymore since I got to college and our strength coach told us that doesn’t help you, which obviously makes sense,” Martinez said. “So, ever since that point, I just took it really strict just from the aspect that I don’t want any regrets. I want to be able to say once I’m done with the NFL and my football career that I put everything into it and I don’t look back and say, ‘What if I didn’t eat sweets? Maybe I could have lasted two more years or I could have ran that much faster.’”
To draw a comparison, food is fuel and elite athletes are high-priced sports cars. At Martinez’s first high school, the coaches weren’t looking for a race car. They wanted Martinez to be a sturdy, immovable dump truck. So, their dietary recommendations weren’t exactly in Martinez’s best interests. They wanted him to eat peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches so he could gobble up offensive linemen and whatever running backs came in his path.
“‘All right, eat PB&Js each night and keep getting bigger,’” Martinez recalled. “Early in the season, I was like, ‘Oh, sweet, I love PB&Js.’ And then after it kept going, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t want to go down this road.’”
So, Martinez switched high schools – and switched diets. Forty pounds melted away faster than an ice-cream sandwich in the Arizona sun.
“My parents called me thick. They were just being nice,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to be doing that anymore.’ So, my dad was like, ‘All right, you can switch schools.’ I switched schools and from that point on just took a strict diet. My trainer gave me, ‘All right, eat this at breakfast, this at lunch, this at dinner,’ and I made sure to follow that each day and write it down in a journal. From that point on, I became a linebacker and didn’t want to go back.”
The only thing going back was opposing ball-carriers. At Canyon del Rio High School in Tucson, Ariz., Martinez emerged as a leaner and meaner linebacker. He was the two-time Southern Arizona Defensive Player of the Year and the school record-holder with 247 career tackles. At Stanford, he was a two-time all-Pac-12 selection, including as a senior, when he earned All-America accolades.
The Packers selected Martinez in the fourth round of last week’s draft. His NFL destination was foreshadowed during Green Bay’s playoff loss at Arizona, a game he attended from the field at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“Funny story,” Martinez said. “I was on the sideline and we were talking to Russ (Ball, the Packers’ vice president of football administration) and we were like, ‘Hey, we have a linebacker here for you. ‘And he was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK.’ All of a sudden we’re here. I was messing with him when we were up there (signing his contract on Thursday), so it was pretty funny.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.