OHIO CITY, Oh - The University of Toledo has landed Sean Martin for their 2024 recruitment class as the junior announced Sunday he would continue his academic and football career for the Rockets. Martin is coming off a great year on the football field and it was only a matter of time before he announced that he would continue to play at the next level.
"Toledo was my first offer which came in May of my sophomore year. Other schools offered me such as Eastern Michigan, Army and Akron and then I heard from the bigger schools such as Nebraska, Boston College and Cincinnati," explains Martin. "Toledo stood out to me because they were the first to see my potential and made me a priority. Every time I visited, It felt like home."
Toledo football is building a powerful program within the Mid-American Conference. They are coming off a successful season which saw the Rockets win the MAC Championship against Ohio University and make a Bowl appearance. They have now landed their top target for the 2024 class in Martin.
"You have to chase relationships over logos; you have to go where you are wanted and not just because it's a big school," Martin says. "Toledo made me a priority and I was appreciative of that."
Over the years, Toledo has maintained a great relationship with the Saint Ignatius football staff and this decision wasn't surprising to Head Football Coach Ryan Franzinger '02. "I thought Toledo was a good fit the whole time after getting Sean's feedback. Toledo has a staff we have known for years and we have a great relationship with them and they have consistently offered our guys," Franzinger says. "They were Sean's first offer, which is great because it is the first staff to notice your talents. He sent me a message and I couldn't be more excited for him."
Martin will continue his football career as a defensive back at Toledo, playing between cornerback and safety. The Defensive Coordinator of Toledo is Vince Kehres. Kehres is a highly touted NCAA coach and the son of the Hall of Famer Larry Kehres. He is entering his fifth season at Toledo and came from leading the University of Mount Union to two National Championships as head coach. For Martin, Kehres' defensive scheme fits well with his play style on defense.
"Their defensive backs play the same style I like to play, which is man-to-man coverage and press," explains Martin. "I like to come up and challenge the receivers, which helps to bring out my best abilities and traits on the football field."
Martin's competitive nature makes him unique as a cornerback on the football field. "Something you don't see a lot out of corners that Sean demonstrates is he doesn't avoid contact; he is not afraid to hit," Franzinger says. "He has a competitive nature where he wants to press the receivers at the line, which is a good highlight to the game. He desires to hit, which you rarely see from corners."
The athleticism of Martin was evident since stepping on campus at Saint Ignatius and he would be called up to the varsity roster in his sophomore year. Martin did not see much time early in the season in 2021 but would work his way up to becoming a starting corner by the end of the season.
"His athleticism stood out to us right away when he joined us. We knew he was a good enough athlete to play man-to-man coverage," says Franzinger. "He is a great competitor and gets in the zone. But he is a great Ignatius man; he leads by example on and off the field."
Martin's first varsity game with the Wildcats came on August 27, 2021, when the Wildcats took on the Mentor Cardinals. Martin saw his first snaps as a varsity athlete as the Wildcats trailed the Cardinals with under five minutes to play. "I came in late in the fourth quarter and we were in the hurry-up offense. I don't even think I was on the right side of the field, but it was a swing route and it was my first touch ever on varsity," explains Martin. "I almost stumbled and fell over, but I was able to stay up and score in my first varsity game."
After his sophomore season, Martin totaled 24 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, splitting time with Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award winner Marty Lenehan '22. He also caught five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown and, on the defensive side, accumulated five tackles and a pass breakup. Fast forward to his junior year, Martin became the number one running back option and second corner, playing along sign Brandon Webster.
In 2022, Martin had 88 rushes for 364 yards and six touchdowns. Martin caught 18 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns through the air. These numbers led Martin to lead the team in scoring in 2022, responsible for 48 points. On the other side of the football, Martin totaled 22 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The potential of Martin came to fruition when the Wildcats hosted Mentor at FirstEnergy Stadium in 2022. Martin was dominant, scoring three touchdowns, including the game-winning 20-yard run in triple OT to give the Wildcats a 26-20 victory.
"It is always a great feeling to come out and make plays for your team and score touchdowns," says Martin. "I am a competitor and there is a lot of excitement that comes out of that running back position and celebrating with the team."
Along with being a standout football athlete, Martin is also a member of Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce's basketball team. Martin was a crucial sixth man for the Wildcats in the 2022-23 season, as he always seemed to spark momentum for the team.
"Sean is known as a defensive player for us, but we do not want to limit him. He led the JV team in scoring his sophomore year and was a scorer on the JV squad his freshman year," explains Joyce. "He knew how to get on the court and I tell my guys to put importance on guarding the basketball. Sean was always there and is always consistent."
Martin has used the winter season of basketball to stay conditioned, but more importantly, work on his footwork, which he notes his playstyle is similar between the two sports. "Basketball helps a lot with conditioning and body control. There are similar movements I apply on the basketball court that I do on the football field and many wouldn't notice that," Martin says. "Footwork is so important on defense and I believe basketball helped prepare me because of the similar movements."
"I am very happy for Sean; he is a great young man who is always smiling and brings great energy to a team," Joyce says. "He has had a tremendous career for us playing basketball and will be a great fit at Toledo for football."
Heading into his senior season, Martin will be a key piece in coach Franzinger's first year as head coach. "There were times last year where we wondered if we were asking too much of him between running back and defense," explains Franzinger. "Sean wants to win and is willing to step up in different positions. As he heads into his senior season, we want to put him in a position to help the team win. He is now a veteran and a leader for this team, which will be the biggest change on and off the field."
Martin was precise on his goal coming into 2023, "win a state championship."