Martin a hit on and off the field

By The Columbia Chronicle

Cary S. Patton

Senior Correspondent

As one walks up the artificial pastures of the beautiful McClain Center in Madison, WI, the message painted on the wall reads loud and clear: The road to the rose bowl starts here. Every member of Barry Alvarez’s football team must keep this in mind as they take the field.

The Wisconsin Badgers are off to a 4-0 start this season. With an Oct. 3 match-up with the Indiana Hoosiers next in line, the Badgers appear to be fine-tuning their game. The only obstacles in the way are a pack of hungry Wolverines and a den of bloodthirsty Nittany Lions.

End of season showdowns with Michigan and Penn State in November could answer questions about how far this team might go.

A defense that ranks high on the charts and a balanced offensive attack gives Wisconsin a serious chance at running away with the Big Ten championship and an invitation to the Rose Bowl. If the Badgers can come out and play a fundamentally sound game week-in and week-out, and not kill themselves, it could be a rosy year in the land of Camp Randall.

Players, coaches, and fans of the Wisconsin Badgers have to look no further than their starting fullback Cecil Martin for leadership. The University of Wisconsin scholarship athlete is the only fourth-year starter on the roster. He is more than willing to take the weight on his shoulders. On and off the field, his impact is felt throughout the community of Madison. Martin sat down with yours truly on Sunday afternoon, after a light workout session with the team, and chatted about his career:

Going from high school to college is a big transition. Can you explain how you were able to adjust to the atmosphere?

“I think the biggest adjustment was using time the right way. With the demand that college football has on an athlete, or college athletes for that matter, you really have to be able to manage your time the right way. I think the resources, in terms of academic advisors, mentors, and professors lending a hand…have helped me make that transition easier.”

You were selected to the AFCA “Good Works Team” in 1997 and are only one of three players nationally to be a repeat selection this year. What is the AFCA “Good Works Team” and what does it mean to you to be a part of this organization?

“It’s a cultural organization. It’s basically the college coaches around the country, and they give an award every year to eleven players in D I, eleven players in D I-AA, D II, D III. It’s basically those athletes who have done a lot of community service, and things in the community. It means a lot to me actually. You do things like that because it makes you feel good and because it’s important and because you have the time, or you have that little time. You know you want to do the right thing. Then to be recognized for that is even more gratifying. So that’s what it really means to me.”

Growing up, who have been some of your mentors in life?

“My mother was definitely a huge mentor in my life. I had a teacher back home, Mr. Branch — he was a mentor of mine. Mr. Logan was, at my school. Growing up, it was people like that, mostly teachers and coaches, who lent a hand to me and tried to instill some things in me and I listened and it was able to help me.”

During your football career here at Wisconsin, what kind of impact has head coach Barry Alvarez had on you, on and off the field?

“He’s the head coach of the team. He helped recruit me, and just the fact that he believed in me, trusted me to get out there and be on the field, and work hard, those are really the main things. Coach Alvarez is really one of those coaches who doesn’t sit on a high pedestal like I hear some coaches do. You could be walking through the offices and be a freshman who has never been on the field or a starter. He will pull you in the office, ask how you are doing and talk to you. His office is always open to you. So I think that whole aura about him has definitely been a benefit to a lot of people on the team, especially me. Being able to go in there and talk to him about something, any problem I have, and feel comfortable about that.”

If you could cherish one moment of your Wisconsin Badgers career to this point, what would it be?

“There have been so many things. Receiving this award a couple of times, that would be one of my best feelings. Beating Northwestern last year, as well as this year has got to be one of the biggest ones. That last minute kick last year was pretty exciting. The Penn State game a few years ago, when we snapped their I-don’t-know-however-long winning streak they had. I mean those things are definitely up there.”

What goals have you set for yourself this season? What will it take to accomplish your goals?

“One main goal is just continuing to be physical and give better blocking, more consistent blocking. I think those are things that I’ll set as goals for myself. To reach those goals, I am going to have to keep working. Have that approach every day in practice. I need to go out here and work on certain aspects of blocking. Being physical, keeping my head on straight. Another goal is being a good leader. Doing the right thing. Trying to demonstrate to some of the younger players and others teammates about how we go about our business here.”

When your football career is over as a player, how do you want to be remembered?

“Someone who worked as hard as he could, did the right things, was physical, got better every year, and that there was more to me than just being a football player.”

When you left the McClain Center after the Northwestern game, a truck load of kids surrounded you and filled you with warmth as they screamed and hollered your name. How does it make you feel to be supported with open arms by the fans and kids of Madison?

“Well, the support from the fans is definitely gratifying. Just the fact that we have great fans here and they support us to the utmost. So that is just gratifying…. The kids really look up to the athlete in a wild way kind of. For us to come out there and sign autographs for them, shake their hands, say hi to them, and things like that. If that makes them happy, then we are more than happy to do it. I think sometimes we make an impact on kids just by the way we carry ourselves and the way we act. I think that is important and it does feel good when you walk out and you are able to make a kid happy by signing your name. That’s the approach we take with it.”