Think of the ultimate compliment for a wide receiver -- maybe two or three of them --and odds are Fairview's Sam Martin has heard them when people are describing his game.
Speed? Try playing single coverage defense on him when he's lined up outside the numbers. Toughness? Ask him to run a 10-yard drag route, and he won't blink. Smarts? There's a reason he and quarterback Anders Hill have hooked up for 71 receptions this season, as his route running can be described as crisp even on his worst day.
And then there are his hands.
"I think one of his best features is he's a true ball-catcher," said Fairview coach Tom McCartney, whose top-seeded Knights open the Class 5A playoffs Friday against Mountain Vista.
"Some kids use the body to catch the ball, but he's just really talented with his hands. He's a quarterback's best friend because he can be a little bit off target and Sam is going to go make a great catch."
Martin, the Knights' most prolific wide receiver since current Nebraska star Kenny Bell, can do it all. But don't think for one second the senior hasn't spent countless hours earning that recognition.
"Ever since I could start playing, it's always been the most fun thing I ever do, and it's always been my love and my passion, and I think that's the drive I have to be great and make a name for myself," Martin said. "When I was a little kid, I just used to go out in the backyard with my parents and just throw hundreds of balls a day. Always catching passes from them.
"I didn't play receiver until my freshman year; I had always been a running back, and then I was a quarterback in eighth grade. But when I came to high school, we got this tennis ball machine, and we would just catch tons of tennis balls every day during lifting class or whatever. Just tons of them, and I think that helped a lot just focusing on some little details like that."
Martin has grown up a lot since then, and with just a handful of games remaining in his prep career, Martin is taking aim at Colorado's all-time receiving record while helping the Knights attain another golden ball -- something they haven't done since 1987.
With each week now being "win or go home", Martin's aspirations of being the state's all-time receiving king goes hand-in-hand with how well the Knights do in the postseason, which starts Friday at 7 p.m. at Recht Field. Sitting on 3,192 career yards, he would need another 709 yards to eclipse Grand Junction's Ryan Lenderman's total of 3,900 set from 1986-89.
That sounds like a lot, and it may be -- but the Knights (8-0) have a maximum of five games to go, and that's what Martin is keying in on.
"Going undefeated through the regular season is one thing, but then continuing that through the playoffs and winning a state championship, that's a whole other season you have to go through," Martin said. "I think we're ready for that, we're prepared and we're still preparing.
"(Records) are always in the back of your mind, but you have to think more as a unit and as a whole team. It's not about me, it's about the team and it's a matter of what we can accomplish together. When we do take care of business, that other stuff kind of takes care of itself."
Don't be surprised, then, if at least the Colorado single-season receiving yards record falls. In just eight games, Martin has 1,221 yards and he is just 347 yards short of the single-season mark of 1,567 (Matt Menard, D'Evelyn, 2011). His 152-yard average would get him close to 2,000 yards for the season, which just three players nationally achieved last year.
With the Knights flawless so far, Martin is truly having a gem of a senior year, and he admitted that he was looking at the state records before the season commenced.
"It would definitely be a cool thing to do, and right now I think it's possible."
No matter what the outcome or how far the Knights go in the 2013 postseason, Martin has put his name right alongside some of Fairview's greatest receivers, including Bell, Kelton Lynn and Patrick Blakemore, just to acknowledge some of the most recent stars. Bell is now up for the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the Cornhuskers, Lynn went to Stanford, and Blakemore played for Cornell.
According to Martin and Rivals.com, he has offers from schools like Eastern Washington, Montana State, New Mexico State and Northern Colorado. He visited Iowa and Rutgers as well as Colorado, but he's keeping his options open right now.
"Sam holds his own against all of those (Fairview) guys," McCartney said, adding Bell is probably the most athletic player he ever coached. "There are people looking. Sometimes people get excited about the early offers and whatnot. Timing is (crucial). I've encouraged him to just be patient, because every camp he's been to, he's done extremely well and the coaches have loved him."The big schools might not be throwing anything his way yet, but Martin isn't letting that affect what he and his teammates are ultimately trying to do. And when the right offer comes, there's no doubt he'll latch onto the opportunity like he would a 72-yard bomb.
"I'm just focusing on this season and we'll see how it all plays out afterward," Martin said. "I'm not trying to force anything, just control I can control and let everything else fall into place."
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