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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Martin Throws His Energy Into Defense

After a brief and successful fling at quarterback as a sophomore for Sylmar High, he has made himself into perhaps the best linebacker in the region.

September 02, 2000|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYLMAR — Josh Martin once threw two touchdown passes against Hart High. It wasn't in a dream, either.

The Sylmar senior is considered the most ferocious linebacker in the region. But two years ago, he fancied himself a passer. And when starter Noah Albiston was knocked out of a nonleague game against the Indians, Martin stepped in and completed four of five passes for 31 yards and two scores.

Alas, he never threw another. For Martin, quarterback was indeed a passing fancy.

Stranger still is that Martin nearly threw passes for Hart.

After starring at quarterback for the Santa Clarita Warriors' youth team in junior high, his parents explored moving from Sylmar and enrolling him at Hart.

But Martin's sister Julie was a Sylmar cheerleader and the family decided it wouldn't be fair to ask her to change schools. Private schools were explored, but a visit to Sylmar and a meeting with Coach Jeff Engilman made Martin a Spartan.

"We were checking out everybody," Martin said. "What made me go to Sylmar was Engilman. He had sent the most players to college and he had a great reputation for getting the most out of people."

Engilman's list of college players will grow by at least one next year. Martin is being recruited by Nebraska, Miami, Arizona State and Ohio State, among others.

"Josh is a great player, a great physical talent, but what impresses me the most is that his work ethic is phenomenal," Engilman said. "He's never satisfied. He's pumping iron longer than everyone else. He runs wind sprints harder than other people. He leads by example."

Martin, 6 feet 2 and 224 pounds, is playing inside linebacker for the second year after playing defensive end as a sophomore. He led Sylmar last season with 93 tackles and caused three fumbles, had four sacks and three interceptions.

He doesn't rest on offense. At tight end, Martin averaged 22.6 yards on seven receptions and he gained 58 yards in two fumblerooski carries.

And, of course, he's always a threat to throw the ball.

"I do miss quarterback," he said. "I think about it sometimes. I'm our emergency QB. But I honestly hope it never comes to that."

He'll make do as quarterback of the defense. Martin calls the signals and aligns his teammates when the opposing team breaks the huddle.

"Our base defense is a 4-4, but we shift into a 4-3 or a 5-2 quite a bit," Engilman said. "Josh recognizes things quickly. He's very good at it."

Quick thinker. Quick to the ball. Martin attributes his improved physical tools to a weight program at the Fast Twitch Training Center in Valencia.

In less than a year, he has improved his vertical leap from 24 to 30 inches and his 40-yard time from 4.83 to 4.67 seconds.

"It's made me a lot quicker," Martin said. "I get to the ball faster. I can tell my legs are a lot stronger and it's put me in a lot better condition. Other guys are huffing and puffing and I'm like, 'Whatever.' "

Fast-twitch muscle exercises are done on sophisticated, computerized equipment. No one pushes the equipment harder than Martin.

"I've worked with hundreds of high school football players in the last 15 years and Josh Martin is as hard a worker as any of them," said Tom Root, Martin's fast-twitch trainer. "He is absolutely driven to be the best he can be."

Engilman feels the same way. A stickler for intensity and toughness, he believes Martin exemplifies everything he espouses.

"Josh is a focused individual and a great example of what a high school player should be all about," Engilman said. "And the best part is, he's still learning the game."

At Sylmar, not Hart. At linebacker, not quarterback.

"My job is to knock quarterbacks out of the game," Martin said. "It would have been fun to play both positions, to be calm and collected on offense and go crazy on defense.

"But I'm happy with the way everything turned out. I just want to do everything I can to help Sylmar win the City Championship."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

HOW THEY RATE

A look at the top linebackers in the region:

With comment by Eric Sondheimer

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 1. Josh Martin Sylmar 6-2 224 Sr.

*--*

Built like a rock, hits like a tank

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 2. Colin MacNeil Canyon 6-1 220 Sr.

*--*

Prototype middle linebacker

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 3. Leo Reed Westlake 6-1 215 Sr.

*--*

Strong and aggressive

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 4. Richard Martinez Ventura 5-9 230 Jr.

*--*

Hits, hits and hits

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 5. Greg Root Highland 6-2 235 Sr.

*--*

Will be three-year starter

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 6. Kyle Hollis Hart 6-0 200 Sr.

*--*

Always makes big plays

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 7. James Skor Simi Valley 6-2 215 Sr.

*--*

Could be best in the Marmonte League

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 8. Lance Broadus Taft 6-2 215 So.

*--*

Can be as good as ex-Taft star DaShon Polk

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 9. Robert Avina Kennedy 6-0 235 Sr.

*--*

Has started 33 consecutive games

*

*--*

Rk Player School Ht. Wt. Yr. 10. Jared DePaiva Saugus 5-11 200 Sr.

*--*

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