BY NICK LAWLER| Ball State Sports Link
“It was everything to me.”
Those were the words of Ball State star linebacker Brandon Martin after he made his return to football last Wednesday.
After being forced to miss most of last season with a devastating shoulder injury that required surgery, Martin returned to the gridiron better than ever.
“[This is] the most motivated Brandon Martin I can think of I think I’m more motivated now than I ever have been, and that stems from those guys in the locker room. They had my back when I was going through a hard time and when I was on my couch not knowing when I was going to be able to play football again after my surgery.”
That motivation was evident against the Miami RedHawks, as Martin racked up 11 total tackles in the loss, his third highest single-game effort.
Martin has been an impactful player from the minute he made the switch from running back to linebacker in 2017. He racked up 121 tackles across 24 games from 2017-2018, including 11 starts.
Coming off of a tremendous 2018 season where he played in all 12 games and was tied for fifth on the team with 66 tackles, Martin played in only game — the season opener — a year ago. He suffered the injury early in that game.
Martin acknowledged how tough it was to be sidelined last year, but that it gave him a chance to do something he hasn’t done before.
“I had the opportunity to take a guy to the sideline, that may not happen if I was playing, and motivate them or whatever that may be,” Martin said. “I was just trying to make the most of that new role you have when you’re not able to play.”
After his injury, he was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, and turned his focus to getting back on the field. Everything Martin does, is for his teammates.
“To be out there, to be able to play alongside them and show them how much I love them with the way I played and my effort, it meant the world to me,” Martin said.
He plans to continue to show that appreciation to his team every week when he steps on the field.
After dropping a tight one last week at Miami, Martin and the Cardinals will now turn their sights to Eastern Michigan, who are traveling to Scheumann Wednesday to take part in a pivotal West Division matchup.
To Martin, the key to victory is to play complete, defensive football. He told Ball State Sports Link he is looking forward to the opportunity to play Eastern and showcase what the Ball State defense is all about.
If the game plan is defensive dominance, Martin is once again going to have to be the player we saw last week and help to slow down the Eagles run game that was spearheaded by Darius Boone, who averaged 7.6 yards per carry last week.
He also believes in his team’s ability to recover from a tough loss.
“We’re fierce competitors and we hate to lose, but the one thing is, we love being around one another,” Martin said. “We’ve seen a lot of adversity in 2020 and in prior seasons, so if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s bounce back and get up to our feet after we’ve been knocked down.
“We’re going to do what it takes to make sure that we go 1-0 [each week] and we’re resilient, so even if we take a loss, we take it as a lesson.”
The team’s relationship will be the biggest factor in their success this season, and it shows when you hear Martin talk about his teammates.
Whatever the day, whoever the opponent, you can be sure that Martin is playing his heart out.
This week’s matchup between the Cardinals and Eagles is Ball State’s home opener at Scheumann Stadium. Sports Link GameDay LIVE starts at 6p, followed by kick at 7 p.m on SL Digital and CBS Sports Network.