Wherever they need him: Sac State tight end Marshel Martin proves there are no limits


Jordan Latimore

Sac State sophomore tight end Marshel Martin poses after practice, Thursday Oct.14 at Hornet Stadium. Martin came to Sac State as a running back before converting to tight end before his freshman season. Photo of Martin taken by Jordan Latimore. Photo in the background taken by Jordan Parker. Graphic created in Canva by Mercy Sosa.

Jordan Latimore

In one of his first pee wee football games, Sacramento State football player Marshel Martin took a brutal hit in the first minutes of action. His father, who was a coach for the team, asked him if he was really ready for the sport.

“So you’re just going to let him hit you and quit?” his father asked. “Or you want to put your helmet back on and go hit him?”

Now the starting tight end for Sac State and coming off of a second team all-conference selection in 2019, it is safe to say Martin put his helmet back on.

“Football is something different,” Martin said. “I don’t want to say I like to bully people, but it’s easier for me.”

Growing up in Vallejo, California, Martin attended St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School after transferring during his sophomore year. 

While playing for the Bruins, Martin’s talent and versatile skill set was not something that went unnoticed, especially early on by St. Patrick-St. Vincent head coach Lane Hawkins.

“This first day of practice, he went to the JVs (junior varsity players) and started warming up with [them] and I said, ‘oh no,’ Hawkins said. “He was head and shoulders above all of the JVs, [I told him] ‘boy, get your behind over with the varsity.’”

Martin, who Hawkins said could be quiet at times, lets his play do the talking.

“It’s never changed,” Hawkins said. “He’s the same guy. He’s quiet, his demeanor is always respectful. He is always accountable, he’s responsible, he never started any trouble.”

Martin came into the St. Patrick-St. Vincent program as a running back, but quickly garnered attention from coaches with his ability to do so much more beyond that position.

“He always had great hands, he caught the ball well for us out of the backfield,” Hawkins said. “As a runner [with] the ball in his hands, he’s another cat. He’s just another dude.”

Martin initially wasn’t sure what he was in  terms of his playstyle upon arriving at St. Patrick-St. Vincent, but the unexpected soon blossomed into bonafide success.

“It was a different experience because when I started playing football [at St. Patrick-St. Vincent], I didn’t really have a position,” Martin said. “But there was one time I went back and forth between running back and receiver [during a game] and scored a 90-yard touchdown pass.”

Hawkins knew Martin had receiver skills, but given his size and ability to make plays in the open field the Bruins’ staff wanted to allow him to run the ball.

“I remember we started out at receiver and it was like,’nah, ” Hawkins said. “Martin said he ran over like one or two guys, we [told him] ‘ you’re playing running back.’”

Martin’s stellar play commanded some Division I collegiate attention, but after one school pulled out late before Martin graduated, he thought the junior college route might be the best for him.

“I was just playing, and I was just hoping something would come my way,” Martin said. “If anything didn’t come, I was going to juco (junior college football).

Martin was initially committed to play for Laney College, a bay area community college with a notorious football program, but a late recruiting effort from Sac State brought him to California’s capital — as a running back. 

However, in fall 2018 as Martin began his transition to the Sac State program, the Hornet coaching staff thought it would be best for him to gray shirt the fall semester and not come on until spring 2019. 

With those plans in place and a long extensive break ahead of him, Martin put on between 30 to 40 pounds thinking that he would not be participating until around February of the next year. 

That was until he received a call from head coach Troy Taylor asking him to attend fall camp after all.

“I want to say like three days before fall camp coming into my freshman year, coach called me and was like, ‘Yeah, we want you to come up now,’” Martin said. “I’m like, ‘Oh snap, I’m out of shape.’”

Martin proceeded to enter fall camp as a running back but noticed his new physical advantages strongly playing into his favor.

“I started playing running back in fall camp, and there is this blocking drill we had and I kind of put somebody on their back,” Martin said. “[That’s] when they were like, ‘Yeah, we got to put him at tight end.”

From that point forward and after entering the 2019 season as a running back, Martin began working toward becoming a full-time tight end, now in a position to truly use his receiver skills to their full fruition.

And Martin did just that.

In his freshman season in 2019, Martin finished with 550 receiving yards and seven touchdowns earning him a HERO sports all-american nomination on top of being selected to second-team all Big Sky. 

Sac State sophomore tight end Marshel Martin (16) prepares to defend Southern Utah freshman safety Treyson Johnson (40) Oct. 9, 2021, at Hornet Stadium. The Hornets totaled 173 yards in the air against Southern Utah, defeating them 41-20. (Ayaana Williams)

Getting into the fold of the offensive didn’t seem to pose any issues for Martin who after a very alternative high school career, has already demonstrated how to get a feel for the game.

“For me it’s kind of regular,” Martin said. “I know what I can do with myself, it wasn’t a surprise to me and I know I can be able to maintain and be flexible in the offense and work with it.”

As for this season, Martin is continuing the dominant trend he showed his freshman year, already securing close to the number of receiving yards he secured as a freshman with 436 yards and five touchdowns thus far.

“I saw how explosive he was,” said special tight end team coordinator Jeremy LaPan. “He started making some catches, he dumped me on my head a couple of times when we were running blocking. It wasn’t until six weeks into it we’re like, ‘this guy’s a dude.’”

Martin also now has become a figure of admiration for his other teammates.

“He’s always one of the most athletic people on the field, if not the most athletic,” said sophomore tight end Charlie McBride. “He always sets an example, always out here getting extra work and kind of makes our bills.”