Zack Martin can’t seem to shake the link between him and Johnny Manziel. And probably never will.
Just look at the stir Jerry Jones created Sunday when he said in a TV interview that the Cowboys were “close” to drafting Manziel instead of Martin, a guard from Notre Dame, with the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Fans were even kind enough to remind Martin about it as he signed autographs after practice, with one fan shouting: “I always wanted you over Johnny Football!”
Martin simply smiles and laughs.
“Man, it’s whatever,” Martin said. “I don’t really mind it. I just kind of roll with it.”
But what Martin does take seriously is his job and proving he deserved his selection spot. So far, so good early on in camp for Martin, who has impressed coaches and teammates alike with his approach and play.
He even caught the eye of Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen, who said Martin “looks strong.”
Those within the organization have enjoyed seeing the intensity Martin plays with every day. Coaches have said Martin has a little “mean streak” in him, as a compliment, and wouldn’t be surprised if he gets in a couple tussles before camp is over.
“I would say I play with an edge and I think that’s something you need as an offensive lineman,” Martin said. “It’s definitely something I learned at a young age and try to do every day.”
Said offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan: “He’s got such a great passion when you watch him play. It just oozes out of him on the field. He’s aggressive. He’s everything you want in a guard that can protect on the move and make the adjustments you have to make in the running game. He’s a really good athlete.”
Martin grew up in basketball-crazed Indiana, but football was always his top sport and he excelled at it. He was among the top offensive linemen in the country coming out of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and went on to anchor the Notre Dame offensive line from 2010-13.
Now, he’s quickly adjusting to the pro game and couldn’t ask to be in a better situation. Martin has several O-line veterans such as Doug Free and Travis Frederick to learn from and gets a daily reminder of how good players are in the NFL by going against former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton in drills.
But Martin has held his own most of the time.
“He’s good,” Melton said. “I purposely line myself up with him because he’s coming on strong. If I’m working with him, I’m making him better and he’s making me better.”
Melton was then reminded that he beat Martin on the first 1-on-1 pass rush drill Saturday. Melton grinned and said: “I just let him know that I’m here and it’s going to be a long training camp.”
Martin will see plenty of action on the field. He’s one of the more versatile linemen in camp, taking first team reps at right guard and second team reps at center. He’s also expected to get a few reps at left guard.
Callahan raved about Martin’s ability to transition rather seamlessly between positions and never make the same mistake twice.
That’s something Martin prides himself in and he knows expectations are high for him. And they only continue to grow with every Johnny Football reference.
“The most important thing is showing the guys you can come to work every day and being that consistent guy,” Martin said. “That’s what this training camp is for — to get the trust of the other 10 guys of the offense and make sure they can count on me when it comes to Sundays.”