But Jonathan Martin, who protects quarterback Andrew Luck’s blindside and helps pave the way for Stanford’s slew of runners, refused any credit. Read on as the humble big man discusses his areas for improvement, the thrill of going in motion, and how he got such a fitting nickname.
Q: You’d originally committed to UCLA and then obviously came here. What are the feelings about going up against a team that you were so close to playing for?
A: I don’t really have any particular feelings. It’s just another team during the season. I know a couple of guys on the team, so it will be cool to play against them, but I just see them as another team and I have to get better every week.
Q: Going along with that, you’re starting as a freshman. Do you feel that you’re big enough and strong enough to play at this level, or do you think you need to get a little bigger and a little stronger?
A: I definitely need to get bigger and stronger, there’s no question about it. Sometimes when I’m out there I’ll feel a little undersized because I’m only 285, which isn’t really that big. My biggest problem coming in was strength and size, and I put on some weight but I still need to put on 20, maybe 25 pounds before I’m really where I need to be.
Q: Was that something that surprised you? Or was that expected once you reached the college game?
A: It doesn’t surprise me at all. I knew coming in that I’d have to put on tons of weight. You look at linemen on TV and they’re all huge and I was a real skinny kid coming out of high school.
Q: Any other big challenges that you see in developing your game?
A: I’m nowhere close to where I need to be at this point. I need to get with Coach Roman a lot more—he’s a great coach. As much as I can learn from him, the better I’m going to get.
Q: In what particular areas?
A: My pass protection isn’t great yet, my run game isn’t great yet. It’s not really good in any part of the game yet. I get by, but I’m nowhere close to where I want to be.
Q: Has there been one particular lineman over these first few games who has really challenged you, one guy who you’ve struggled against or felt that you were able to completely contain?
A: I never feel like I’m physically dominating anybody. The offensive line as a whole has done a great job so far. There’s no one in particular that I could single out and say, “That guy was really good,” but I think we’re doing a great job as a whole.
Q: In addition to the offensive line, you also have tight ends lining up with you at times. Has that been an easy thing to work with? Do you like having tight ends next to you? What protection do they provide for you as you continue to learn the game?
A: The tight ends are great. Jimmy Dray is another tackle out there in the run game. He’s just a beast coming down those blocks. Konrad brings the athleticism. Fleener is a receiver playing tight end. So we have all kinds of depth at tight end, and that really makes the run game go. Once they get the blocks on the edge, Toby can cut off like he does.
Q: You were going in motion a bit last week. It’s an unusual assignment for a tackle. How do you feel about playing that role?
A: It was my dream come true, because linemen never get to do anything cool, so it was real fun. I do whatever the coaches ask of me in this offense. I just want to be as good a team as possible, so that’s what I focus on.
Q: What is the scheme like? How different is it from high school? Is it difficult to understand? When you’re on the line, are you making adjustments or do you generally have it down pat?
A: It depends on the play. Usually there’s a couple of wrinkles in there, like the safety walking up to do something. It’s way more complicated than high school, there’s no question about that. The main thing that Coach Drevno says is that we can be more physical, we can always be more physical. So that’s what we try to work on every day in practice.
Q: Are there any particular plays that you like to run?
A: I just love grinding meat—power running game. That’s football at its finest. Anything where it involves a lot of contact.
Q: Screen passes?
A: Tackles in our offense don’t go out too much on screens, but that’s cool, too.
Q: You were here with Coach Dalman, and now you’re here with Coach Roman. How has that transition been?
A: Coach Dalman was a great coach, there’s no question about that, but Coach Roman may even be a step up because he’s so focused on the tackle game. He has all kinds of knowledge from coaching in the NFL. Coach Drevno brings some of the other aspects of the physicality needed to play this game. They’re both great coaches.
Q: What do you see as your ceiling? How close are you to it, in terms of the improvements you have to make? Where do you see yourself in a few years?
A: I don’t really think about that, to be honest. I’m more focused on team accomplishments because I’m not going to be anything without a great running game and great linemen next to me. So it’s more of the team game that I’m focused on.
Q: Speaking of the team game, can you expand a bit on the depth and cohesiveness of the offensive line unit?
A: We have tremendous depth and leadership. Chris Marinelli and Allen Smith are just tremendous leaders out there. Along with the coaching, I think we can be one of the best offensive lines in the Pac-10, if not the nation.
Q: Has it been fun?
A: It’s been awesome, it’s been incredible. Every day there’s always something to get better at. Like I said before, I’m nowhere close to where I need to be yet. So I try to get in Coach Roman’s back pocket and listen to everything he says.
Q: You’ve spoken a lot about needing to get better. Can you expand on what you need to improve on?
A: Strength, obviously. But also technique, because there are little small things that can completely ruin a play for you. Those are the things I really need to focus on. Everyday I’m thinking about the small things—I need to put my foot here, this hand needs to be under this pad, stuff like that.
Q: Last question: Why Moose?
A: In fifth grade I was really tall. I was 5’7” and everyone else was like 4’11”. I went to a private school, and I was the big new kid, so they gave me a nickname and it stuck since then.
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