Vaughn Martin Faces An Uphill Battle, Welcomes The Challenge

Vaughn Martin
With around 20 tackles and only a sack-and-a-half in 2008, Vaughn Martin's college numbers don't jump out at you initially. But look past the stats and turn on his game tape, and you'll find a one man army wearing #47. The San Diego Chargers drafted Martin with the 113th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, but they weren't alone in their quest for the big defensive tackle. The New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns were showing strong interest in Martin up to and throughout the draft process. At 6'3" 330lbs, Martin has the size, speed, and strength that NFL teams are looking for to bolster their defensive lines. Physically, Martin is NFL-ready. But coming from playing college football in Canada, Martin faces a unique challenge in his quest to not only make a roster, but to start for a pro team.

Playing for Western Ontario, it was hard for Martin to get noticed by NFL scouts. Off the NFL radar for the most part, Martin didn't even receive a combine invite. Undeterred, Martin, along with his good friend and agent Matt Baxter, sent game tape to all 32 NFL teams. They held pro days for NFL teams as requested, which Chargers' scouts famously attended:

"He actually had three pro days and two private workouts. The New England Patriots wanted to come in on their own. So we basically were just doing them by demand. A team would call and set a date, and then we would just tell the other teams that that's when it would be happening. The first one we did was the day after Michigan's pro day, so we'd get all of the scouts that were in Michigan across the border, and had it at a location 20 minutes away from Ford Field in Detroit. So that's where his name started to get out at first. And then from there, everyone loved what they saw. In fact, he gave New England my number as the secondary number on Draft Day. The Patriots ended up calling me as Vaughn was on the phone with San Diego because they couldn't get through. They were desperately trying to get a hold off him. They saw, as Vaughn did, his name come up on TV. That was a quick end to that conversation," says Baxter.

Even with good NFL teams showing interest in Martin as a prospect, he was still labeled a "project" who would need time to develop. He had only played a couple of years of college football, and was still learning the game - and it was the Canadian version at that. How quickly could he adapt to the NFL, if at all?

"They say 'Oh, he doesn't have this stat or that stat.' And it's easy for fans to say that. But if you watch the film, like San Diego did, you see he gets triple-teamed on every play. And on top of that, the running back comes in to chip and help out on him. Teams would call a play and choose a direction at the line, and would run the play to the opposite side of where Vaughn lined up on. But that was actually good for Vaughn because he got experience with not giving away where he'd line up. So he played a lot of nose and end, and he'd move around. Because if he'd just come out of the huddle and go to his spot, they'd just call an audible right away. He was just that dominant," says Baxter.

The Chargers saw Martin's versatility and became enthralled with the idea of using him in much the same way as he was used in college. Knowing it'd be a process, the team nonetheless saw a world of potential in Vaughn Martin.

"When I first came here to play defense end, I thought I'd only be on the five, but a lot of time they'll have me reducing, playing three, slanting, whatever. It's just a matter of getting in the playbook. The first day it's all new, but as we go on I get more familiar. When we get back for OCS, that when I think I'll get in better shape all around, mentally and physically," says Martin.

Getting acclimated to the pro game is normally not an easy transition for a college player to make, let alone a guy who played college ball in Canada. But Martin is up to the task, confidant in his abilities and eager to improve.

"I'm doing stuff based on my old habits, but Coach has a philosophy; get into your man, control him, and work from there. Through the pad level and all that. Nothing too fancy. Am I facing an uphill battle? Of course I am. But you know what? It's the NFL. Everyone is big and athletic. But you can't get by on only that for too long," says Martin.

It's his love of competition and his drive to succeed allows him to be successful in whatever sport he picks up, whether it be bowling, hockey, or touch football:

"It was his birthday the week before the draft and we went to go play touch football at a park, and he laid out a couple of people. He's just highly competitive," Baxter recalls.

Vicious as he is on the field, Vaughn's off-the-field personality somewhat belies his football nastiness. Vaughn is one of the more polite, well-spoken, and laid-back guys you'll meet. Having made the move from the Caribbean to Canada, and now down to the States, Martin has learned to take things in stride. Martin adapts to circumstances almost as agilely as he moves on the football field. And it's on the football field where he is most comfortable, most at home:

"When he's on the field, he takes on a different persona. Playing football is almost a release for him. That's where he's happiest. Off the field, he's a great team guy. He comes of the field after practicing for two hours, and he's still smiling ear-to-ear. Playing football is what he looks forward to. You can't always pick up on the personality of a guy when you scout him; you really only see the measurables. But he endears himself to his teammates and his coaches. He has the passion, not just for football, but for life. Everything he does he goes after it full speed," says Baxter.

As raw and as unpolished as he came into San Diego, he's leaving a strong impression on coaches and teammates alike. There is a buzz about Martin that permeates Chargers Park. Have the Chargers done the impossible again, finding a diamond in the rough who'll shine brightly on Sundays?

Says Baxter, "He's just too big and strong; not only physically, but also mentally as well. There's no limit to how good he could be."

June 23, 2009

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12 comments:

PRManic85 said... Jun 24, 2009, 8:42:00 AM

Wow that's pretty crazy hearing that New England was ready to draft Vaughn too. Thanks for the read man, good sh*t!

Neoplatonist Bolthead said... Jun 24, 2009, 11:35:00 AM

I'm really high on this pick. I think he's got a good chance to keep our 3-4 going after Williams retires.

Anonymous said... Jun 25, 2009, 5:36:00 PM

Martine will be a beast and a problem for opposing OL's, RB's and QB's, I say he fully starts after the bye week. Martin will be very dominating.

Anonymous said... Jun 25, 2009, 5:38:00 PM

If Martin plays as good as we are all hoping, no one will know how to stop our pass rush and the pressure we'll put on them. Merriman, Phillips, English, Castillo, J-Wall and Marting..daaaamn, what a scary front 7, they will make our secondary very good. I can't wait to see how our defense plays this season. I see a very dominating top 3 Defense.

Kope said... Jun 25, 2009, 7:52:00 PM

first they wanted English and we also beat them to martin as well

at least it shows our FO know what they are doing

Anonymous said... Jul 17, 2009, 12:15:00 PM

I live in Atlanta GA and work as a speed and agility coach. Each year agents send 15-20 guys to train with us in preparation for the upcoming NFL combine. Most are with us for 8-12 weeks. Vaughn Martin was here training with us for 4 or 5 weeks. He is exactly what you are hearing. He is as nice and as genuine of person that you are gonna find in the NFL. He is VERY intelligent(I beleive he scored a 34 on the wonderlic test which is higher than Payton Manning scored) He's well mannered and an extremely respectful young man. However,there is a downside... for other teams in the league. He is huge, fast, extremely powerful and very explosive. I think it was reported that he benched 225 thirty-two times. It was actually 44 times. Better than anyone at the combine.When you take all of his amazing physical attributes then add in his drive and his work ethic you find yourself looking at one of those rare athletes. Not only will Vaughn earn a starting position on week one of his rookie season but if Vaughn stays healthy he has all the necessary tools to be an anchor to your defense for many seasons to come. More importantly, off the field your community will be blessed with a quality citizen and your kids with a real role model. Good luck San Diego... and thank you for Michael Turner! We love him here in Atlanta!

Anonymous said... Jul 21, 2009, 7:26:00 PM

Hey Martin.....if you read this......Bring It! Sure you will make mistakes along the way, but San Diegans are very forgiving and will appreciate your work ethic, determination, and being a valuable asset to San Diego in general. By the way, when you play Atlanta on 08/29/09 look for a few of us die hard Charger fans hanging out in the endzone. Cheers! And while I don't share in the enthusiasm as the agility coach who posted ahead of me in regards to Burner Turner, it is nice to see him on Sunday's in Atlanta where my son and I get to witness a wildly talented RB and a huge mistake on the part of AJ & Co.

Anonymous said... Aug 4, 2009, 10:44:00 AM

I think Martin will make it in the NFL. But he has a ton to learn.
He will see spot duty this year, but more as the season grinds on.
Next year: starter.
- Northernmost Bolthead

Anonymous said... Aug 8, 2009, 11:58:00 PM

Vaughn Martin will hopefully spell Jamal Williams this season and get Jamal well rested for the playoffs. He has a huge upside so hopefully he'll be able to adjust to the pros quickly and prove everyone why he belongs in the NFL.

OnDeck said... Sep 22, 2009, 1:23:00 PM

big ups to vaughn martin for making it out of Canada. This guy deserves a lot of props for coming from Western, a Canadian university and making it to the show. Most, if not all of these guys have the luxury of playing in the US, where sports and football especially is taken a lot more serious and they have far greater resources.

way to make UWO proud!

Northern Bolthead said... Sep 25, 2009, 2:29:00 AM

Go Vaughn Go! Go Bolts Go...loved the baby blues... As an FYI to you Boltheads; Vaughn's university, the University of Western Ontario, is a very big university in terms of size, located in London, Ontario, Canada...

Anonymous said... Dec 5, 2009, 8:48:00 AM

Don't believe the hype ... yes New England was interested in Martin ... so what! ... key word was "interested" ... the Patriots cut their 3rd round 2008 draft choice quarterback Kevin O'Connell ... why? ... they made a mistake ... Martin is a long term project and he may not pan out ... not having played Division 1 let alone NCAA football has hurt his chances ... he tries to muscle the guy in front of him and that doesn't work in the NFL ... he got pancaked and rolled lots in games.

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