Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez is quietly a very funny person. Walking out for his media availability at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, Martinez cracked a joke before he even sat down at the table:
"My teeth good?" Martinez asked, rubbing his upper front teeth with his finger. "I just had a chocolate bar...er, protein bar. I don't eat dessert. Ever."
Martinez sounds like one of the cleanest eaters that you'll find here in Indianapolis. While other prospects have admitted to loving pizza, chicken wings, and other junk food in their spare time, Martinez is having none of it. "It's one of the things I pride myself on. I haven't had soda for eight years. Don't drink. Don't have any sweets. For the Rose Bowl they had this big thing where they tried to force-feed me a pastry and had me give a motivational speech on why you shouldn't eat the pastry."
"It was very interesting. I'm like 'I'm gonna go with it.'"
Well, what about eating pieces of prime rib at the Lawry's Beef Bowl before the Rose Bowl instead? "Yeah, that's more Josh Garnett's area," said the linebacker. "He wussed out this year, he kind of ventured that down to the young guys this year."
Of course, there are far more characteristics that Martinez possesses besides his eating habits. The linebacker measured in at a shade under 6'2" and 237 pounds, and had some of the biggest hands of any linebacker in Indianapolis at 10-7/8 inches. His workouts are still to come on Sunday, but he is projected to run in the 4.7 range in the 40. Martinez also recorded over 100 tackles in each of his two years as a starter and added five interceptions as well.
Despite those numbers, Martinez is currently projected to be selected on day three of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he recognizes that a linebacker in that range needs to make an impact on special teams before he will see the field on defense. In fact, that is exactly how his progression went at Stanford: "I think (special teams are) huge. Ever since I came from HS to college, it was one of the things I pride myself on," Martinez said. "My freshman year, I walked up to our special teams coach and I just told him 'hey, I want to be on special teams. Let me show you what I can do.' I feel like that's kind of what molded me as a player to what I am now. It allowed me to get those fundamentals from tackling a guy, getting off a block, making those blocks, and learning those little things to eventually, when I am a starter, to do them real-time in the fire of things."
If that sounds to you like the breakdown and approach of a cerebral, thoughtful player, you're right. Martinez discussed Stanford's academics and how that translates onto the field:
I think the best thing is just Stanford in general, no matter what degree, they make you think outside the box. It's not just cookie cutter ... here's these little fundamentals, think outside of the box and see how you can mold these things to be able to answer this question ... I feel like that's helped me where I have these fundamentals on the field, okay, looking at this team, how can I use these little things to maybe make this player miss, make this tackle one yard in the backfield instead of a couple yards down the field.
Martinez used that attention to detail to his advantage as a Senior, and it helped him record the most tackles of any Pac-12 player a year ago - 138 - a number which ranked seventh in all of FBS college football. It should help him hear his name called on draft weekend as well, and he should provide his team with a valuable special teams piece in the short term and a player who should have excellent potential to become a solid inside linebacker in time.