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Small in stature, not ability

Justin Schuver | Thursday, August 28, 2003

It’s okay to call Greg Martin short. Really. He doesn’t mind.

“I’ve always been the little guy,” he said. “The guys will joke about it.”

The jokes about Martin stop at his stature, however. There’s nothing funny about the Plano, Tex., senior’s leadership ability or the respect he garners from his team. After all, Martin is the first three-time captain in Notre Dame men’s soccer history.

“I think it was flattering to know I had earned the respect of my teammates,” Martin said of his sophomore year, the first year he was named captain. “At the same time, any time there’s a leader, it’s a credit to his teammates.”

Even so, the 5-foot-8, 151-pound Martin has a lot to be proud of, especially considering that he didn’t even begin to play soccer until the fifth grade, unlike several of his Irish teammates who had been playing at much earlier ages.

Despite his late start, there was no doubting Martin’s talent, and at 15 years of age, he began to tour around the world with the Under-17 U.S. National Team.

In January 1999, Martin traveled to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a school specially designed to train soccer players for college admission and academic recruitment.

During his years with the U-17 National Team and time spent at the Academy, Martin became friends with four other current Notre Dame players, senior forwards Justin Detter and Devon Prescod and senior midfielders Filippo Chillemi and Chad Riley.

Martin spoke of a conversation the five had during the recruitment process, when they all agreed to attend Notre Dame together with the goals of receiving a quality education and putting Irish soccer on the national map.

“Our goal was to come here and change Notre Dame,” he said. “We wanted to make it a soccer school.”

When Martin was offered a scholarship to join the Irish, he didn’t give it a second thought.

“Just like any other kid in this university, you can’t pass this opportunity up,” he said.

Despite his prowess on national teams and at the prestigious soccer academy, Martin knew that he would be on a team with players much bigger and stronger than he. Rather than fretting about size, he said that he was only encouraged to train and practice harder.

“I like [being smaller]; it’s a challenge,” Martin said. “I realize that personally I’ve got to be one of the hardest-training individuals just to keep up.”

Martin seems to have kept up. As a junior, he was the fourth leading scorer on the team with 13 points (six goals and one assist). Being a midfielder, however, Martin is unable to focus primarily on offense.

Calling the position “the soccer brains,” he explained that a midfielder is responsible for really bolstering the team because of his responsibilities on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

Of course, all the soccer talent in the world means nothing without a coach to organize it all, and Martin believes Notre Dame has one of the best in Bobby Clark.

“We call him ‘The Boss’ because you can’t just call a guy like this ‘Coach,'” Martin said. “He’s so much more than just a coach. He’s a father figure, a mentor, and probably least of all, he’s a coach.”

Before Clark was hired in 2001, the Irish went 15-17-5 in their two previous seasons. Under Clark, the Irish are currently a cumulative 24-13-3.

Despite his coaching expertise, Martin maintains that “The Boss” is special because of who he is off the field.

“He teaches us more about life and just how to be a good person,” Martin said. “Even alumni who played for him 25 years ago realize he’s just a very special person. I’ve grown to be best friends with him. He’s a saint, or as close as you can get at least.”

In fact, it is because of Clark that Martin has said this year’s seniors are so anxious to win a national title. With the recent Soccer America poll placing the Irish at No. 3 in the nation, Martin says it may be hard for the team to maintain its focus, which should be the immediate goal.

“For the season, there’s ultimately one goal that every team in college sports has – the national championship,” he said. “But in the meantime, we want to try and eliminate distractions and keep everyone on the same page.”

Even if the Irish are unsuccessful in their pursuit of a title, Martin said that his experience at Notre Dame has been more than he dreamed.

“It’s far beyond what I expected,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for more than what I’ve been given at Notre Dame. I think what makes it special is the quality of individuals. I think there’s just a special kind of person here. I’ll be deeply saddened when I have to leave.”

Although it’s still a long way off, Martin already has tentative plans for life after Irish soccer. He would like to continue to play professionally, but if that doesn’t work out, he wouldn’t be averse to attending law school, perhaps even at Notre Dame.

What is most important to Martin, though, is what people remember about him after he leaves Notre Dame.

“My goal at Notre Dame is to leave a legacy in the soccer program,” he said. “By that, I don’t mean championships or winning percentage, but just the way the team handles itself both on and off the field. [The seniors and I] want to kind of create a mold in which future leaders can step in and be able to lead this team in the right direction.”