By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 30, 2016) — While Tarleton State football is in a state of transition with head coach Todd Whitten returning to campus, Texan Dominique Martin is in the state of extra transition with a move from wide receiver to cornerback.
“In spring ball I was still at receiver, but (new defensive coordinator Marcus Patton) kept telling me I looked like I could be a great corner,” says Martin, a senior from Lancaster. “I never took him serious until the end of spring ball when he said he really did think I would be a natural at corner and asked me to at least think about it.”
So Martin mulled the possible position change over the summer. It was a difficult decision after he was second on the team with 452 receiving yards in 2015. He scored a pair of touchdowns on his 30 receptions, averaging more than 15 yards per catch.
“I thought about it over the summer, and it was tough because I’ve always been a receiver and that’s the position I love,” Martin said. “But in the end, I thought, if this is what will best help the team, it’s what I need to do.”
So Martin told Patton he was ready to make the transition, one he says has been surprisingly smooth considering he hasn’t played a down of defensive back in seven years.
“My freshman year in high school I played DB one time at safety, I got one pick and I got caught at the five-yard line,” Martin recalls. “I never heard the end of it and it was the last time I ever played defensive back.
“It’s been going well, better than I thought it would,” he added of the change. “I was even surprised myself how quickly I started picking it up.”
Quickly enough to soar to the top of the depth chart in time to expect to make his first college start at cornerback when Tarleton opens its season at Division I-FCS No. 9 McNeese State Saturday in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“I’ve just been trying to focus on the techniques and schemes they’ve been teaching us and putting in extra work so I can catch up to guys who have been playing that position for years,” said Martin.
It’s made for some humorous confrontations in practice while competing against guys he used to play alongside.
“It’s been fun and competitive going against all the receivers I used to be practicing with all the time,” he said. “They talk big noise any time they make a catch or big play on me, and of course, I talk it back whenever I stop them.”
It’s no secret the Tarleton defense was in need of revamping after finishing dead last in Division II in total yards allowed a season ago.
“I feel real good about the defense and the direction we’re headed in,” Martin said. “The schemes and the way we are doing things, all the techniques we’re being taught, it’s just been a great experience to see this defense rally together and get ready to show we are better than that.”
The move to the defensive side of the ball isn’t the only transition Martin has found more smooth than expected.
“Changing to a new coaching staff and everything has actually gone better than I ever thought it would,” he said. “The coaches have made us feel more comfortable by really coming together to try and get to know us at the same time we’ve been coming together to learn more about them. They have shown us that they are here for us and are looking out for our best interests, so there is trust there.”
He says the best part of his Tarleton experience has been running out onto the field with his teammates.
“Overall, the best part for me has been playing under the lights every Saturday,” Martin said. “I love taking the field and hearing the fans while playing alongside my brothers on the team, just hanging close to them and playing as one.”
A communications major who made the Lone Star Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2015, Martin has big personal and team goals for his senior season, which didn’t change when he made the move to defense.
“Wherever I play, my goal is to be a captain and a mature leader and hopefully to excel so that I have a chance to play at the next level if possible,” he said. “Team goals, I want to win a conference championship and continue to play in the playoffs.”
Martin says being picked seventh in the preseason poll means Tarleton will have to prove its pundits wrong to accomplish such lofty aspirations.
“Defy the odds, that’s what we’re out here to do,” he said. “It’s just like me being at defensive back. I have to prove to everyone I can play that position, and we have to prove to everyone that we can win games in this conference.”
As long as that is happening, Martin doesn’t care where on the field he plays.
“It’s always the same. I ‘m a confident guy who prides myself on doing anything I can to help the team,” he said. “Whatever the team needs, I want to take that on headfirst. Wherever the coaches say the need me, I’m confident that I can excel in that role.”