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March 27, 2023

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Mountain View’s Jacob Martin shows it’s never too late to take up a new sport

Basketball, baseball were senior’s sports until trying football in 2021

By , Columbian staff writer
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Mountain View senior Jacob Martin (5) never grew up playing football, yet has transformed into a college prospect as a lockdown corner and sure-hands receiver.
Mountain View senior Jacob Martin (5) never grew up playing football, yet has transformed into a college prospect as a lockdown corner and sure-hands receiver. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ask Jacob Martin his favorite high school sport, and the answer is a perfect one.

“That’s a question I get asked so much,” the Mountain View High senior said, “but my answer always is, ‘It’s the sport I’m playing at the time.’ ”

Martin’s three-sport excellence is relatively new, and the two-way football starter at cornerback and receiver is proof it’s never too late to turn out for a high school sport.

In Martin’s case, it’s football.

He never grew up playing the sport, yet has transformed into a college prospect as a lockdown corner and sure-hands receiver. Saturday, Martin and the Thunder (5-4) face Rainier Beach (6-2) in the Week 10 football state preliminary round. Kick off is 5 p.m. Saturday at Seattle Memorial Stadium.

Martin quickly went from a football newbie to a veteran, and credits his baseball and basketball background for success in a sport he never dreamt of playing in high school.

He grew up a baseball and basketball junkie. As an eighth grader at Wy’East Middle School, he decided to give football a go for the first time, but didn’t plan to have it in the cards for high school.

Then COVID-19 hit.

When remote learning dominated the first half of the 2020-21 school year, friends convinced Martin to give high school football a try once preps sports returned in a modified format in February 2021. His only experience in football came in eighth grade at Wy’East. No Pop Warner as a youth. No experience in Clark County Youth Football. Yet Martin was looking for something to occupy his time.

“I wasn’t really doing anything,” he said. “It opened up an opportunity for me.”

Martin was sold. Football’s physicality proved to be his biggest learning curve, but Martin’s instant success as an immediate two-way starter perhaps isn’t a surprise given his baseball talents.

He’s a center fielder for the Thunder and skill sets such as ball tracking and head turns transition well down field in football.

“It’s just something that’s in the back of my brain, because I’ve been doing it for so long,” Martin said. “Playing outfield for the past six years of my life has really taught me to go up and get the ball. And that’s just been a mentality.”

Thunder head football coach Adam Mathieson isn’t surprised to see Martin’s rise in success given the total-package athlete he is. But he’s transformed from an athlete to a football player by embracing the game’s physicality, the coach said.

“When you watch him play other sports, you realize what a great athlete he is and how natural he is tracking balls,” Mathieson said. “When he tracks a ball on the baseball field or when he plays basketball, in a way, that looks effortless.”

Martin is a reigning all-league football player. Mathieson said what makes a good corner or safety goes beyond fundamentals.

“As a DB coach, they’re going to say short memory, right?” Mathieson said.

Martin has that, too. In the team’s 20-14 loss to Evergreen on Sept. 30, Martin called the outcome of the Thunder’s final offensive play one of the most heartbreaking experiences of his entire sports career. In the closing seconds, Martin took a screen pass at the 6-yard line, but a goal-line hit by Evergreen’s Jaxson Morris forced the ball loose. It was recovered by the Plainsmen.

“I had it instilled in my mind I was going to make that play for my team,” Martin said, “and just to hear Evergreen’s crowd roar and all their players jumping up, it definitely hurt at first.”

What came next is something Martin is grateful for.

“All my coaches and teammates gave me so much love after the game and it honestly just fueled me to go back to work,” he said. … “I feel like a lot of kids would’ve let that play linger in the back of their head.”

Martin chose not to let it linger.

Mountain View’s up-and-down season is back on the up after winning Monday’s three-team tiebreaker to snag the final playoff berth to this weekend’s Week 10 state preliminary round. A win Saturday sends the Thunder to the Class 3A state playoffs.

Now, the Thunder believe they’re playing their best football at the right time. They’ve won three of their past four games, and Martin believes they’ve turned the page for the better — just in time for the biggest stage of the year.

“It’s been a win-or-go-home mentality for the past few weeks,” he said, “so our mentality hasn’t changed at all.”

And Martin is ready — and proof it’s never too late to turn out for high school football.