GREEN BAY – It was one of the greatest moments of Blake Martinez’s life on one of the biggest stages in college football.
The future Packers linebacker had nine tackles and a half sack in Stanford’s dominating 45-16 win over Iowa, handing the Cardinal its second Rose Bowl championship in four years.
It was a time for jubilation, especially for a group of seniors who worked tirelessly to again smell the roses before the end of their college careers.
Afterwards, most of the team went out to celebrate the 12-win season and seventh Rose Bowl victory in program history.
“I went to sleep right after we won,” said Martinez with a smile during the Packers’ recent rookie camp. “I left the next day to go start training for the combine.”
This is Blake Martinez in a nutshell. He doesn’t drink – not even soda – do drugs and rarely helps himself to dessert. Since early in high school, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker has been incredibly health-conscious and goal-driven.
His transformation began when he was a freshman in high school. Martinez, like most kids, was fond of PB&Js, so when the football coaches told him to eat up every night, the young defensive lineman happily obliged the request.
As Martinez quickly learned, however, there were consequences for the extra calorie intake.
“It was not a good trend,” Martinez said. “Early in the season I was like “Sweet, I love PB&Js.’ Then, I was like, ‘I don’t want to go down this road.’”
That road had the 14-year-old tipping the scales at 265 pounds. He wasn’t fat – more like thick – but Martinez didn’t feel comfortable about the added weight.
So he changed schools and adopted a strict diet. The school trainer gave him a roadmap for his nutrition, including a step-by-step outline on what to eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
While jotting down everything he ate in a journal, Martinez dropped 40 pounds and began his metamorphosis into a linebacker. By the time he arrived at Stanford, Martinez had cut out soda and sweets entirely.
“He’s really a technician when it comes down to it,” said Packers rookie tackle Kyle Murphy, who was in the same recruiting class with Martinez at Stanford. “When it comes to bettering himself as a football player and as an athlete, he takes that more to heart and more serious than anyone I’ve really met.
“I’ve never seen him eat any bad food, drink anything bad. He’s always been that super clean guy. He has muscles bulging out every corner of his body.”
The plan obviously has worked. A third-team All-American who had a team-high 141 tackles as a senior, Martinez was drafted in the fourth round (131st overall) by the Packers a little more than three weeks ago.
If Martinez’s mom correctly predicting his selection wasn’t enough, there also was a moment of foreshadowing during the Packers’ divisional playoff game in Arizona last January.
Martinez and his agent were on the sideline before the game and came across Russ Ball, the Packers’ vice president of football administration.
“We were like, ‘Hey, we have a linebacker here for you,’” Martinez recalled. “He’s like, ‘Oh yeah. OK.’ All of a sudden now we’re here. I was messing with him when we were up (in his office). That was pretty memorable.”
Prior to the draft, Martinez also made a stop at his alma mater and spoke to current members of the Mesa (Ariz.) High School football team. He discussed the sacrifices he made because he loved football and encouraged them to do likewise.
It didn’t matter if it was football or movie club. The point Martinez wanted to get across was not to be afraid to put your heart and soul into something if you have a passion for it.
“It’s somewhat inspiring even for an adult because man, I can’t even eat right throughout the week,” joked Dustin Peace, Martinez’s high school coach.
“He’s special in the fact that even when he was a young kid, when kids are kids are getting pressured with drugs, alcohol and all that stuff – he set the precedent right away that this guy is never, and I think to this day, had a drop of alcohol. Just that discipline and focus that can be modeled in a program.”
After cramming to get his degree at Stanford in 3½ years, Martinez is looking forward to concentrating solely on football now that he’s in Green Bay.
Martinez has long term goals for his diet, as well. One day he hopes to open a nutrition business. As for his NFL career, Martinez is motivated by the notion of never having any regrets.
“I want to say when I’m done with the NFL and my football career that I put everything into it,” Martinez said. “I don’t look back and say, ‘What if I didn’t eat sweets, maybe I would have lasted two more years,’ or I could have ran that much faster and that type of thing.”
So does Martinez have any vices?
“I just play computer games,” Martinez laughed.
Added Murphy, smiling: “Some people could say (video games) are not great for your health, but I guess other than that he’s pretty clean from head to toe.”