Warriors kicker ready to fill predecessors’ shoes

08/25/2014 2:50 PM

08/25/2014 2:51 PM

He doesn’t have to just dream about it. For Julien Martinez, it’s all come down to a big kick before.

“Everyone’s got that one vision of a game-winning touchdown or field goal,” Martinez said.

When he and fellow Martin senior Josh Watson were eighth-graders at Boles Junior High, Martinez nailed the winning field goal to clinch the Arlington city championship against Gunn.

Fast-forward to present day and Martinez is poised to become the latest in a long line of premier kickers for the Warriors. Last year’s kicker, Spencer Evans, is now a freshman kicker at Baylor, while the two kickers from the 2012 team, Ben Grogan and Jaden Oberkrom, are kicking at Oklahoma State and TCU, respectively.

“Julien is the next big thing,” Martin coach Bob Wager said.

Martinez and the Warriors kick off the season against DeSoto on Friday night in Midlothian in a rematch of the third round of the 2013 playoffs. In that game, which DeSoto won, Evans was knocked out with an injury. That paved the way for Martinez to take — and make — his first-ever varsity field goal attempt, a 35-yarder.

“They sent me in confident in that kick,” Martinez said. “I think I might have been a little nervous.”

Wager, whose team will team will look to win the new District 4-6A after sharing the 3-5A crown last season with crosstown rival Lamar, sounds confident in both Martinez’s kicking prowess and the senior’s overall approach to the game. Instead of kicking off and hanging back to act as the last line of defense against the other team’s returner, Martinez always wants to take off down the field looking to make the tackle, the coach said.

“That’s the attitude we’re looking for on this team,” Wager said.

Martinez, who is also a soccer and track standout for the Warriors, wants to be thought of as a football player foremost and not just a kicker. Martinez works hard to dispel the stereotype that a kicker isn’t strong and fast like the other football players. Martinez has 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and holds his own in the weight room and in football drills.

“It takes more than just kicking ability to be a good football player, to be a good kicker,” said Martinez, who has 50-yard-plus field goal range. “You have to train every way: in the weight room, conditioning, even stretching. You have to do everything to make yourself better.”

His former Boles teammate Watson, a TCU baseball recruit, will share take the field with Martinez on every kick attempt. That’s because Watson, the team’s leading tackler in 2013, starts at linebacker but also plays on all the special teams. He’s even been known to take snaps at fullback or short-yardage quarterback.

“This is the guy that’s probably going to play 100 snaps in a game and plays every single one of them as hard as he did the first one,” Wager said of Watson, who last season became the first player the coach ever named a team captain as a junior.

For Martin to be in position to win big games with a kick, the Warriors will have to work hard in practice and play relentlessly on game days, Watson said. “We’ve got a lot of speed,” Watson said after a recent practice. “Coach was saying today we didn’t have a great effort. That’s what we’ve got to have. The teams we’re about to play have effort they’re good they play hard every play they’re all ranked in the top 10 in the country, if not top five.”

Watson’s referring to a difficult pre-district slate in which the Warriors also face another state powerhouse in Dallas Skyline. It doesn’t get any easier when Martin gets into district play and tales on talented Bowie, Lamar and Arlington.

“I definitely feel like it gets us prepared, to see the best competition early,” Watson said. “It exposes our weaknesses and shows what we need to improve on.”

For their senior year, Martinez and Watson want to improve enough for the Warriors to go out on top — regardless of whether that final game comes down to a last-second field goal.

“I remember us our freshman year talking about our senior year, dreams of state,” Martinez said. “Now, it’s finally here and we need to make it count.”

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