The moment required a call and Nick Martin knew it.
So before Martin could become Notre Dame’s most versatile offensive lineman and follow his potential All-American of a brother to South Bend, the last of the three Martin brothers to star at Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis had to come to terms with where he wouldn’t be playing college football.
Martin had committed to Kentucky before his senior year, following in the footsteps of his father and mother. Keith Martin played football for the Wildcats, where he met future wife Pam, an offensive line trainer.
Those family ties made committing to Kentucky easy before Notre Dame offered a late scholarship. And it made de-committing from the Wildcats hard after the Irish did.
But instead of sending a breakup text message to recruiter Chuck Smith or head coach Joker Phillips, Martin picked up the phone.
“I obviously had to man up and make the call and be respectful and I did. I left on good terms,” Martin said. “There’s no way I could have gotten away with not making that call.
“Kentucky is a great place, a lot of respect, a lot of family there, still a fan.”
Martin said the opportunity to reunite with his brother Zack proved and continue his Catholic education seemed too inviting. And giving his parents a break from road trips to South Bend and Lexington seemed too logical.
Martin flipped to Notre Dame less than a month before National Signing Day. He won’t follow his brother’s college career exactly, Zack moving into the starting lineup after a red shirt season and never looking back, but Nick will be a valuable cog in Notre Dame’s line this fall, even if he barely plays.
Working on the scout team last year, Martin took reps at all five positions. He spent spring ball battling Mike Golic Jr. for the starting right guard spot. He stayed there for the first couple weeks of camp, then slid to tackle after Jordan Prestwood quit and Tate Nichols suffered a knee injury that will keep the junior out through the weekend.
“It speaks volumes about his versatility as an athlete, both physically and mentally,” Golic said. “We know Nick’s got all the tools athletically to be a great player at either position. That’s something he’s shown time and time again.
“You see a lot of Zack in Nick. It’s good. He’s worked very hard and he’s going to see the fruits of that labor very soon.”
Anyone at Notre Dame’s practices also hears a lot of Zack on Nick, the older brother arguably a tougher coach on the sophomore than Harry Hiestand.
The dynamic of that relationship flipped in the past year. Protective of his brother while he was on the scout team, Zack has turned into taskmaster since, trying to get Nick ready for game action, starting this weekend in Dublin.
If the Martins play together against Navy it will take them back to their time at Bishop Chatard when Nick backed up Zack at tackle. Getting to this point may have included a false start of sorts as Nick searched for the perfect college fit, but ending up in South Bend seems to suit the sophomore and his family.
Even if the swing lineman hears about it dally from his older brother.
“He’s definitely hardest on me as a coach,” Nick said. “He’s probably my biggest coach out there. He’ll pull me aside, rip on me. But I know that he wants the best for me. We’ll watch film together and he’ll help me out.”