Ross Martin has always enjoyed playing under pressure.
And he experienced plenty of pressure during his freshman and sophomore seasons as a starting forward on the Walsh Jesuit (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) varsity soccer team.
But playing in one of the nation’s top soccer states was no sweat to Martin compared to his other starting gig — placekicker for the Warriors’ football team.
Martin always enjoyed kicking because he felt like the game was in his hands whenever he lined up for a field goal attempt. And he liked it so much that he gave up soccer after his sophomore year to focus on football.
You could say it paid off. Now a senior, Martin is rated the nation’s No. 2 kicker by ESPNU.
After giving up soccer, Martin began working with family friend and Pro Bowl kicker Jeff Wilkins, who taught Martin the mental aspects of the position. Martin also gives credit for his development and success as a kicker to Jamie Kohl, Chris Sailer and Brandon Kornblue, all experts in the field of kicking, punting and long snapping.
The teaching proved beneficial — Martin set a school record with eight field goals during his junior campaign.
He was even better this season, earning ESPNHS All-American honors after breaking his own school mark by connecting on 10 field goals, including a pair of game-winners. Six of his field goals were from more than 40 yards with a long of 50. He also finished his career making all 95 of his extra-point attempts, which set a state record for consecutive extra points made.
Martin, who capped his high school football career by playing in the Under Armour All-America Game, will play next season at Duke, which he chose over scholarship offers from the likes of Texas, Harvard, Cal, Pitt and Northwestern.
Get Familiar with this All-American before he heads off to college.
ESPNHS: How tough was it giving up soccer?
Martin: At that point, I had done a couple of national rankings camps for kickers and did well there. I thought I had more of a future in football. It was tough giving up soccer because I had been doing it for so long.
ESPNHS: What’s your favorite aspect of kicking?
Martin: I like the pressure and the chance to change the game around on one play. It’s pretty much thinking that I’ve done this a million times in practice and not really thinking about the kick could mean.
ESPNHS: What’s the biggest misconception about kickers?
Martin: The idea that they’re not really part of the team. I always took part in the conditioning and weightlifting. But everyone knows how hard I work off the field and nobody treated me like that in high school.
ESPNHS: Do you think more schools should give scholarships to kickers?
Martin: It’s increasing. They should be paying more attention. Look at last weekend’s NFL playoff games. Kicking is an integral part of the game and people are starting to realize that.
ESPNHS: How much has Jeff Wilkins helped your game?
Martin: He’s been an awesome teacher. He’s added a huge part to my game on the mental side. He’s kicked at the highest level, and the biggest thing he’s taught me is to have a short-term memory and to stay levelheaded.
ESPNHS: What led you to pick Duke?
Martin: I committed to Duke because of its unique combination of great academics, ACC football and an outstanding coaching staff. There’s a lot of really positive and exciting things happening with Duke football right now under coach Cutcliffe and his staff, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it these next four years.
ESPNHS: What’s your favorite kick of your career?
Martin: It was my field goal in the season-opener. It was a last-second kick to win the game, and our team rushed the field. That was the first game-winner of my career.
ESPNHS: You mentioned you like traveling. What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Martin: Last spring break, I went to Duran, Ecuador, for a service immersion trip with my school. We went down to interact with the community in a pretty poor neighborhood. It really opened my eyes to other parts of the world and how other kids my age were living.
School: Walsh Jesuit (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)
TV Show: “Modern Family”
Movie: “The Fighter”
Musical Artist: Jack Johnson
School Subject: History
Jon Mahoney covers football for ESPNHS.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know which high school football player he should Get Familiar with.