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IOWA CITY — Life has changed a bit for Iowa City West senior Oliver Martin in the last year.
Going into his junior season, he was getting recruiting looks, sure — but in July and August of 2015, it was lukewarm from the Power 5 conference schools. He’d been invited to some junior days and had a few conversations with recruiters — Iowa’s Reese Morgan and Bobby Kennedy were among them at that point.
Then the 2015 season and summer of 2016 happened.
Martin starred for a Trojan team that went 4-7 and lost in the second round of the Class 4A state football playoffs to Bettendorf. He finished the season with 75 catches for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 21.5 yards per kick return and 14.3 yards per punt return, with one punt return touchdown.
Stats like that were eye-popping, and he finished his junior season a three-star recruit. Then came camps this summer. He went to The Opening recruiting camp in Oregon in July, and when he left, he’d gone from 247Sports’ No. 87 receiver and the No. 567 player in the country to the No. 10 receiver and No. 67 overall.
Now, six weeks into his senior season, he has 40 catches for 605 yards and six touchdowns. Oh, and 14 scholarship offers, highlighted by Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.
“At first I was just trying to get seen by going to camps and just showing coaches my skillset and what I can do,” Martin said Friday night after his team's 59-7 win against Burlington. “And then once they saw what I can do, I got some offers. I just have to decide which one is the best fit for me.
“It can be a lot. You call coaches throughout the week, I go on visits every once in a while on the weekends. I try to focus on my team as much as I can during the week and when I have time, I spend time on recruiting stuff.”
So far, Martin hasn’t made any official visits anywhere, and said Friday he’s not sure if he will take any. He went on an unofficial to Notre Dame for the Sept. 24 game against Duke and was in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the Michigan-Wisconsin game on Saturday, a day after catching three passes for 76 yards and returning two punts for 78 yards. The plan is to visit Oregon this weekend, as the Ducks are hosting No. 6 Washington.
Martin said all the schools are “recruiting me pretty much the same,” but declined to say with which he was in closest contact. A decision isn’t imminent, but he said Friday, “sooner than later I’ll try to decide. I’m not sure how soon. I think I’ll have decided before Christmas, definitely.”
His high school coach, Garrett Hartwig, has been there as a sounding board for Martin, offering whatever advice he might need. The third year head coach knows Martin’s parents, Jeff and Lisa, have a great handle on all things related to the senior’s recruitment. While pushing him to be the best he can for the Trojans, Hartwig sees a young man handling everything like someone well beyond his years.
“He’s the same guy. Very quiet, very humble; very hardworking. I just hope he’s enjoying the process,” Hartwig said. “I’ve talked with him as much as I can. He’s got a good family that gives him good advice. I just tell him to ‘do what you’re comfortable doing.’ There’s nothing he needs to decide this week. I’m always here for him if he needs something.”
Iowa has paid attention to Martin since before the national recruiting surge, and offered Martin in June. Back in January, while swimming for the Trojans, Martin said an offer from the Hawkeyes could go a long way.
“I think if I got an offer from Iowa, they would hold an edge just because I’m from here over other schools,” Martin told The Gazette then. “If I got an offer from them, it’d be pretty tough for another school to beat.”
Recruiting isn’t that simple, though, and Martin, who is by all accounts a smart, humble young man, can’t be held to something said 10 months ago. As of Friday, he said, “whichever (school) feels best, I guess. If I feel good there, that will play a factor. I have a handful I like right now.”
Iowa is right down the street, yes, but if Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly call, you listen. The Hawkeyes are the suitors that are best known, but while there have been the obvious questions about staying in his hometown, Martin has been able to avoid the pressure-cooker somehow.
“I know (Iowa is) a great option. They’re right down the road. There’s a great tradition, great coaches,” Martin said. “I haven’t been feeling a whole lot of pressure (from friends to go to Iowa). Not as much as you might think. I’ve tried to block anything out from the outside.”
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