A highly touted prospect coming out of Murray (Utah) Cottonwood, John Martinez was a member of Pete Carroll’s final signing class in 2009 and would go on to establish himself as a sturdy mainstay at right guard for a large chunk of his career, lining up as a starter for the entirety of his sophomore and junior seasons.
As was the case with the entire Trojans team this past fall, Martinez’s 2013 campaign was filled with ups and downs, as he took on more of a reserve role. Still, there were positives that he was able to take away from his fifth-year senior season as he made a valuable contribution on both the right side as well as the left side of the line while recording five starts, including in the victory over Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
With his time at USC having now reached its conclusion, Martinez took time out of his schedule to talk to WeAreSC as he prepares to take part in the College All-Star Bowl (Feb. 14) as well as Pro Day (March 12).
WeAreSC: What have you been up to since the season ended?
John Martinez: After the season ended I moved out of my apartment at USC, and then just headed back home to Utah to train. I’m training at this place called John Madsen Performance. It’s right down the street from my house.
WeAreSC: Who are some of the other players that you’re working out with, and what has that experience been like?
Martinez: It’s mostly a bunch guys from the University of Utah. There’s Karl Williams -- the fullback, Vyncent Jones -- the center … a couple guys from Utah State also. We all have the same goal in mind, we’re going through the same process, and they’re a bunch of great guys too. It’s cool to hang out with them afterwards when we’re done lifting.
WeAreSC: You’ve got Pro Day at USC coming up in March, but you were also recently invited to play in the College All-Star Bowl in Greenville, S.C. How excited are you to take part in that game?
Martinez: I can’t wait to play in that bowl game because it’s been too long since I’ve put a helmet and pads on. I’m tired of lifting weights, I’m ready to hit somebody ….
WeAreSC: After starting every game during your sophomore and junior seasons, you dealt with quite a bit of adversity in your senior year, as did the entire team. What was it like dealing with that?
Martinez: As soon as Coach Kiffin left it was just chaos. It was like everything just got thrown up in the air, and hopefully everything would come back down the way we wanted it to. I feel like everybody loved Coach [Ed] Orgeron before Coach Kiffin left, so everybody was on board with what he was doing right away. And for me, not playing as much my senior year, the best thing to do when you’re not in is to be positive and just take it day-by-day, and when an opportunity arises, you just have to take it. So, that’s what I kept in my mind the whole time. I just kept my head high and just hoped for opportunities.
WeAreSC: One of those opportunities came in the Las Vegas Bowl when you got the chance to start in your last game for the Trojans, and you came up with a strong outing in a victory. How special was that individually, and in terms of the team?
Martinez: That was definitely gratifying. It was an accomplishment that a lot of us seniors were hoping for. There was a lot of hype going into it, but a lot of pressure too because we lost our last bowl game. Fresno State wasn’t a bad team either -- they were good. It almost came down to a chess match. When they made a wrong move we had to capitalize on it. When we made a bad move they tried to capitalize on it. I was just happy to experience the whole thing.
WeAreSC: You saw quite a few coaches come and go during your time at USC. Can you pick one or two of those who had an especially profound impact on you?
Martinez: I would say that [graduate assistant] Lenny Vandermade made a big impact on me because he took me under his wing, took me aside and kind of explained things in a different perspective than a coach would, because he actually played and understood just the feeling of it. I felt like that was one of the things that just helped me out so much … getting the perspective of a guy who had been there and done that, and who had played at SC. And then I’d say Coach [Mike] Summers too, because of his philosophy about playing football and being an offensive lineman. He talked about how growing up as a kid no one else wants to be an offensive lineman when they’re playing pickup games, so he made us feel like we had a special job, and that it’s something that no one else would be able to do, and that’s why we were chosen. I felt like that brought us more of a sense of wanting to play for him, and that it gave us a sense of solidarity.
WeAreSC: You earned an undergraduate degree in sociology at USC. If football doesn’t work out down the line, do you have an idea of what you might be interested in doing?
Martinez: If football doesn’t work out I was hoping to use my degree because I have a lot of family that is involved in foster care, and I’m adopted myself. I feel like I could be a mentor for kids who are in my shoes when I was their age. I could prove to them, ‘I was there. I’ve done what you’ve done, and if you just stay on the right path you can achieve goals like going to college and playing football.’ So, giving back to the kids who went to my high school or from my community, I feel like that would be more of a rewarding experience than doing it for money or anything else. That was my main reason for getting a degree in sociology.
WeAreSC: What will you miss most about being a student at USC?
Martinez: I’d probably say the people … just the other student athletes and everybody there. They made my experience a lot better. If I ever needed help they were always there. And if I ever had questions or anything they were always there. And plus, the professors and just everybody was so friendly. They always talk about the Trojan family, and I really experienced that sense of family while I was there.
WeAreSC: If you had one message to send to USC fans, what would it be?
Martinez: Just keep living the dream and Fight On.