Martin to become a Tar Heel

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 07:43 AM

Thomas Jefferson quarterback and 2012 Rutherford County Player of the Year McKinnon “Mac” Martin pulled a signing day surprise as he chose to accept preferred walk-on status and play wide receiver for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Martin had planned to accept an offer to play quarterback from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, but decided to take a chance in Chapel Hill instead. Martin declined Washington and Lee’s offer late Monday but did not decide to play football at UNC until signing day.

“I was just going to go to Carolina and not play football,” said Martin. “The chance to play was a surprise and I am very excited.”

“Calling the W&L coach to tell him I wasn’t coming was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Martin continued. “He is such a great guy and I love that team, but I just couldn’t pass on a chance to play for Carolina. Not many people get to live a dream and I had to take a chance.  If I didn’t, I would have always wondered if I could have played at that level.”

Martin will enter Chapel Hill this summer as a “grey shirt”, which means he will participate in workouts and practices, but cannot see game action until the 2014 season. He can, however, earn a scholarship beginning in the spring semester.

Martin is well aware that there are no guarantees in big time FBS football and that he would have received more playing time elsewhere.

“I could probably have seen a lot of playing time as a freshman if I had gone somewhere else, but this was more than just a football decision,” he said. “In fact, I would say academics was a major factor because if football doesn’t work out, I’ll have a great education and that’s the most important thing.”

The chance to play football at UNC came about quickly as Martin was not even aware that he had athletic opportunities for the Tar Heels until last week.

“I did not have my official visit until a week ago and I fell in love with the campus,” he said. “I met with the coaches and they explained this opportunity and were very honest with me. I was very grateful for that because I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work and I’m ready for that challenge.  If football doesn’t work out, I have the advantage of coming from a school like Thomas Jefferson that stresses education, so I feel I can be successful no matter what happens.”

Even so, Martin is hopeful he can find success on the gridiron and in the classroom.

“My goal is to eventually be a starter at either wide receiver or on special teams,” he said.  “I understand it won’t be easy and that it will take a lot of work. I know there are a lot of people that are better players than I am, but I’m going to give it my best.”

Martin is no stranger to playing wide receiver as he lined up at that position during his freshman and sophomore season for TJCA. During that span, Martin reeled in 21 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown. Ironically, it is Martin’s experience on defense that gives him the most confidence.

“When you play safety, you are basically a wide receiver on defense anyway,” he said. “You learn to read throws and patterns which I think will really help and I’m thankful for that experience.”

Coach Jerry Cash also believes Martin can make the transition to receiver.

“Mac has great hands and great speed and that is exactly what you need to play wide receiver,” said Cash. “He is going to have to work extremely hard at somewhere like Carolina, but I know he can find success.”

Whether that success comes on the football field remains to be seen, but for now Martin is just thrilled to be a Tar Heel. “I just so happy right now about getting the chance to play football,” he said. “Whether that turns into a four year career, I don’t know, but I’m going to make the most of this opportunity.”

In other signing day news, Martin’s teammate Nathaniel Devon accepted a walk-on position at Mars Hill College.