In this week’s Senior Moments, UCLA-bound St. Francis graduate Jeremiah Martin, the 2014 Angelus League Co-MVP, tells me about his status this coming season as a preferred walk-on in Westwood, why the movie “Rudy” is coming with him to his dorm room and how his Catholic faith has influenced him to be a leader both on and off the gridiron.
You actually quit football your junior year to focus on baseball. When did you first realize that you wanted to return to football?
Jeremiah Martin: As I was watching that football season from afar my junior year, I realized how much I missed it. Towards the end of the school year, I decided I had to come back.
I actually texted Coach [Jim] Bonds during the senior banquet. And then that next week at school, I said to him “I want to be able to come back and play for you. Will you take me back?”
He said, “Of course, but nothing’s guaranteed. You’re still going to have to work for the starting quarterback spot.” So I knew going in that he wasn’t just going to hand it over to me, especially after taking a year off. But I was ready to work for it.
You went the entire season without throwing an interception. Was it difficult to block out the pressure that comes with maintaining a streak like that?
I’m not a person who pays attention to the media or anything like that. I just wanted to go out there and play my game.
And I knew how hard I had trained for this and how confident I was in myself, so I knew that if I kept doing what I was capable of, I’d be fine. And if I happened to throw an interception, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
How has your Catholic faith influenced the way you approach both football and life in general?
It’s a huge part of it. Basically everything I do revolves around God, and I’ve always looked to God to lean on when things get tough, and to give the glory to him when I have success.
So in sports, school and life in general, I always try to keep God at the forefront. Being able to share my faith with others and being able to lead by example is a big part of who I am and how I want others to see me.
You are coming to UCLA as a preferred walk-on. What are your goals?
I’m coming into this season with a “no expectations” mentality. I kind of view it as a situation where I have nothing to lose.
Not being a five-star recruit or a scholarship player, not many people are going to expect much out of me. So I’m looking at it as an opportunity to give it all I’ve got, and if I fall, I fall, but if I succeed, I’ll give it everything I have on that field.
Kind of like Rudy.
[Laughs] That’s funny, my uncle recently said, “It’s kind of a Rudy situation. You should keep that movie in your room and watch it every night.”
But I could definitely see it as a situation like that, where an underdog, unknown player works his tail off for as long as it takes until he gets his shot. And once I get that opportunity to prove myself, I’m going to take full advantage of it.
*Jeremiah plans to study Business with an eye on sports management while at UCLA.