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Corey Martinez’s football career was born in a doctor’s office about three years ago.
Always too big to make the weight limits for youth football, Martinez had grown up competing in baseball, the sport his father and uncle played professionally. While having an arm injury examined, an orthopedic doctor asked if Martinez had ever played football.
“And, as my son is sitting right there, he said, ‘You know, he’s a big kid,’ ” said Ronnie Martinez, Corey’s father. “I told him I didn’t want him to play because I was worried about injuries, and he said — again in front of my son — ‘I see more injuries in baseball than I do in football.’ So I asked him, ‘Son, do you want to play football?’ and he said yes.”
Now Martinez, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound sophomore left tackle for Tampa Catholic, is drawing attention from elite Division I programs. He’s taking an unofficial visit to his dream school, Florida State, this weekend for the Seminoles’ opening game.
“Everyone who saw him in the spring was just blown away by the way he looked and moved for a guy his size and age,” Crusaders coach Bob Henriquez said.
When Martinez arrived at Tampa Catholic for his freshman year, he had never played on the line.
“Believe it or not, I played running back and quarterback in middle school,” he said with a laugh.
It did not take him long to embrace the lineman mentality.
“Literally the first play of the first game last year, he dislocated his pinkie,” Henriquez said. “It was pointed in the wrong direction. He came up to me and I called the trainer over, we put it in place, and he went back out there and played the rest of the game. The question of toughness was not an issue.”
While pass blocking came naturally, Martinez used the offseason to focus on his footwork, run blocking and ability to read defenses.
He was one of two sophomores named to the 28-man 2011 IMG All-Madden Team, assembled from the top performers at the IMG Madden combine held in Bradenton on July 29-31.
Run blocking continues to be a point of emphasis for Martinez and the rest of Tampa Catholic’s line, which features only one new starter. On Tuesday, the linemen worked in “the shoot” — a tool with five slots, topped with a low ceiling that forces players to stay low and in their stances.
“It’s not too bad,” Martinez said of the drill. “I try to tell myself you have to be good before you can be great. If you don’t do the little things first, you’re not going to be great in the long run.”
And that run, if Martinez fulfills his childhood dream, will take him to Tallahassee — on a football field. He can thank his doctor for that.