Kamal Martin is a freshman linebacker from Burnsville, Minn., who played quarterback and safety in high school. Martin has seen significant playing time this year and has produced some big plays for the Gophers through the first five games. Now it's time to learn a little bit more about him.
GopherSports: Why did you end up choosing on coming to Minnesota?
Kamal Martin: It was the best fit for me and my family. The coaching staff treated me like family and I felt like I had to come here. I was doing myself the right service my coming here. It was a dream come true, this was my dream school.
GS: You mentioned the coaching staff. Your position coach Mike Sherels is from Minnesota and played for the Gophers. Did he have a big impact on your decision?
KM: For sure. I’ve seen how he treated players personally in my own eyes and I’ve seen how he developed players. It was a no brainer for me.
GS: Was football always your favorite sport or did you play other sports growing up as well?
KM: Oh yeah. I used to play basketball growing up, but I stopped around ninth grade.
GS: You attended multiple spring practices before starting school this summer. How beneficial was that for you?
KM: It was very beneficial. It showed me how practice was going to be and how its run. It gave me a little head start on the play book and learning the base calls. It was very beneficial for me coming to spring practice and learning from the older guys. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the older guys. They’ve done a great job of teaching me and showing me the ropes.
GS: You are from Minnesota and decided to play for your hometown school. How important is it to you to help the recruiting staff during official visits for recruits and serve as a host for recruits, which is something you have already done multiple times?
KM: That’s very important to me. They’re going to be my future teammates some day and to make sure you get the best guys you possibly can is a huge factor. I give my all to anyone who asks me to host kids.
GS: You, Thomas Barber and Carter Coughlin are three freshman linebackers and have all played this year. Do you three look at yourselves as the future of the Gopher linebacker unit?
KM: We look at it like we have to uphold traditions that Coach Sherels has started here. The upper classmen have been helping us too. It’s been a dream come true and a blessing too.
GS: You live with Thomas, Carter and Antoine Winfield Jr. What’s been the most eye-opening part about living on your own?
KM: The cleaning part. We realize we have to do it, but it’s been fun. Thomas does most of the cleaning.
GS: What do you the four of you like to do in your free time?
KM: We’ll go to the living room and study together or do homework. We also like to play video games.
GS: You played quarterback and safety in high school, but play linebacker in college. How has that transition gone for you?
KM: I think of football as football. You grow up playing all positions. I try to put myself in the best position possible. My first position was receiver. From there, throwing the ball back and forth to my teammates, I developed the quarterback part of it. Just being an athlete and learning from older people like professionals and collegiate student-athletes helped me transition to safety and then to linebacker.
GS: You have seen significant playing time so far. Did you expect that or have you exceeded some of your early expectations?
KM: I think everyone expects to try and make an impact. I just try to put forth all the effort I possibly can and do what the coaches ask of me. They put me in situations where successful things can happen. I definitely need to work harder and put in more work to get to where I want to be.
GS: You have made some impact plays through the first five games and have a sack, recovered a fumble and made an athletic interception against Iowa. Can you take us through that interception?
KM: They called man-coverage. I saw the back and I knew I had to get him so I stayed on his inside hip and I saw the ball and thought there’s no way he’s throwing the ball, he threw it and I tried to make a play and hold on to it so he didn’t strip it from me.
1st career interception for Kamal Martin? ☑️
✌️ angles 👇 pic.twitter.com/sjwIpmjfC1
— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) October 12, 2016
GS: You ended up doing a backward somersault after the catch and still held onto the ball. Is that all instinct and athletic ability?
KM: It goes back to the drills we do in practice. We always do ball drills in practice so it goes back to that.
GS: Your older brother, Kashif, goes to Minnesota as well. How nice is it to have him at Minnesota with you?
KM: It’s awesome. He set an example for me and that’s another reason I wanted to come here. He is going to have opportunities to have a great future. The academics side had a huge impact.
GS: Kamal is not a name you hear every day. Is there a special meaning behind your name?
KM: My parents were going to name me Cameron but I had a cousin with that name, so they decided on the name Kamal. I think it means perfection in Arabic.
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