Punter is impressing at Detroit Lions camp
Sam Martin is beating the odds and living a dream that captivates kids as they play pick-up football in backyards across the country.
The former Starr’s Mill kicker was drafted this spring by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the NFL draft. He was one of only two punters drafted, and the first player ever drafted from Starr’s Mill.
His very proud father, Tom Martin, explained Sam had played soccer all his life and was recruited to the Starr’s Mill football coach to be the team’s placekicker. But then, serendipity intervened, and a kicking coach James Rafter volunteered to help the kickers at Starr’s Mill, and saw something special in Sam.
“He saw that he had a very strong leg and asked him to also consider punting, He said he had NFL potential,” Tom Martin explained.
Rafter kicked for the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills and the Atlanta Falcons during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Sam began with me before his senior year in high school. He was initially a kicker and got a scholarship to kick at Appalachian State. He worked on punting with us every trip home and took over both duties for four years becoming a first team All American punter his senior year.”
“Sam continued kicking in high school, and won a scholarship to Appalachian State,” Rafter said on his website.
Martin’s efforts caught the eyes of the Lions and was drafted. In an interesting twist, Sam’s mom hails from Detroit and his dad went to school in eastern Michigan.
“It’s like we’ve come full circle,” said Tom Martin.
The Martins have made several trips to Detroit during the pre-season and said Sam has already obtained an apartment in Detroit...which he seldom sees.
“They keep him in a hotel for training camp, but he gets off about two hours a day and gets to go back there,” Martin said.
Martin’s pre-season kick-off efforts have also caught the eye of long-time NFL kicker David Akers, who is handling field goal efforts for the Lions.
“I think I was in the top 10 in the NFL last year, but I can’t hang with that,” Akers said in a report on mlive.com when describing Martin’s first kickoff in the Lions’ 24-6 preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Akers said his ideal kickoff will be in the air for 3.9 seconds, but Martin’s effort was clocked with a 4.39-second hang time, and it still managed to land five yards deep in the end zone.
“My best ball can’t hang with Sam’s 4.39,” Akers said. “It just can’t. I don’t know many people in the league that can.”
If Martin’s efforts continue, many of Fayette County’s football fans may be tuning in on Sundays this fall to see a native son try and help propel the Detroit Lion towards the playoffs and maybe even the Super Bowl.