Martin leaves his mark on Daniel soccer
By Alex Maminakis
CENTRAL — When John Martin looks back on his high school soccer career at Daniel, one of the first games that comes to mind is a second-round playoff game his sophomore year against A.C. Flora.
The Lions led 1-0 late in the second half, and Martin had two strong shots bounce off the goal posts before Flora tied it with 30 seconds left. In overtime, the Falcons scored again to win the game and advance, while Daniel’s season — Martin’s first playing for the Lions — was done.
Martin, at the time, felt like he had let his teammates down — something he never wanted to do again.
“That taught me a lot. It was my first year ever playing high school, and to see all the seniors crying after the game that their high school careers — soccer careers — were over, that was something that really stuck with me,” Martin said. “And that’s kind of been my motivation the past two years was that A.C. Flora game when I hit the post twice, because I didn’t ever want to let the other guys down on my team like that.”
Over his next two years playing for Daniel, Martin became a team captain and the leader of a Lions team that has won four straight region titles. This spring, in his senior season, Martin scored 20 goals with 13 assists and was a North-South All-Star selection, the Region I-4A player of the year and an all-state selection as Daniel made it to the Upper State semifinals in the postseason.
Martin is The Journal’s All-Mountain Lakes Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year after his impressive final campaign for the Lions, and now the midfielder is preparing for his next chapter as a member of the Clemson men’s soccer team.
In his three years playing varsity for Daniel, Martin was a team captain as a junior and senior, but his senior year, according to him and Lions coach Phillip Boyer, is where he took a big step in his leadership ability on the field.
“By the time that he was a junior, he knew he was the guy on the team — he was the one that everyone was looking to,” Boyer said. “I think this year, more than any other year, he was more willing to show his emotions. He’s so reserved and cerebral that very rarely do you see explosions of emotion, which you see a lot in high school-aged guys. But with John, it was the opposite … and we needed that from him. We needed him to show that passion, to show that emotion.”
Martin admits it was easier for him to lead by example rather than be a vocal leader on the team, but he also said the vocal role that he transitioned into as a senior will only pay off for him in college.
“On the field, I was the guy that had to open my mouth, and that’s honestly not my natural instinct, to open my mouth and yell at guys on the field,” he said. “But this year I think I grew as a player, I had to do that. I started having to yell at guys, which I don’t like doing, but I had to do this year, and that’s honestly going to help me as I go to the next level, because no matter what year you are, at Clemson you’re expected to lead in some way.”
Those leadership abilities have come a long way since Martin’s sophomore season, but his ability with the soccer ball was never really in doubt, as Boyer said his play on the field has always been technically clean and smart since Martin joined the Lions.
“There are players that I feel like I’ve had a direct hand in their development and the kind of player that they are,” Boyer said. “John, I think I helped him grow a bit as a leader, but in terms of the player that he is, he came perfectly pre-packaged and ready to roll. I didn’t do anything, to be honest.
“Being able to share the last three years with him, and have him be a leader on the team the last two years — I knew the team was in good hands, and it made my job so much easier.”
This summer, Martin has already enrolled at Clemson and is getting a head start on his academics and with his new team — the one he grew up idolizing when he attended soccer camps with the Tigers.
As a player who took part in the youth soccer Olympic Development Program and traveled throughout the South and even to Portugal to play and learn more about the game he loves, he’ll stay right at home in Clemson as he reaches the next level of his soccer career.
“I couldn’t be more excited. Ever since high school and club ended, it’s been some anxious feeling because I’m just ready to get out there,” Martin said. “Especially being this close — I’ll go out to the practice fields and just wish that it was all starting instead of being out there alone. It will be very busy, I’m sure a little stressful, but I’m very excited.”
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