Football players never forget their first varsity touchdowns.
Fenwick wide receiver Sherman Martin’s was especially memorable.
Martin, a 6-1, 170-pound junior, scored his on an 85-yard fullback option pass from Gavin Graves in the season opener against Phillips. It was a play the Friars had worked on extensively in practice, but Martin still had some butterflies when Fenwick coach Gene Nudo called for it.
“I was nervous at first,” Martin said. “But then (quarterback) Jacob (Keller) tossed it to Graves and Graves threw it to me and soon I was off and running.”
Martin finished his varsity debut with four catches for 102 yards. The Friars lost 40-16, but finding the end zone against one of the top teams in the state – Phillips was the Class 4A state runner-up in 2014 – was an encouraging sign.
“It was a good feeling,” Martin said. “Scoring the first TD is always a good feeling.
“My goal was to score two but I’m blessed to have scored one.”
Martin, who was called up to varsity for the playoffs last fall but didn’t see action, feels blessed in more ways than one. The graduate of St. Edmund School in Oak Park feels fortunate to attend a prestigious academic school like Fenwick.
“I love my teachers and I’m blessed that they help me,” Martin said. “I know a lot of people at my school and they push me to be the best I can be.”
Martin also is blessed with an athletic talent that runs in the family. His older brother is Jason Jefferson, who starred as a defensive tackle at Leo High School and the University of Wisconsin.
Jefferson, 33, was a sixth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2005 and played five seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. He now is the defensive line coach at Aurora University.
“I used to go to his games at Wisconsin,” Martin said. “I loved it because I got to jump up and down.”
Despite the large age difference, Martin knows he can always turn to Jefferson for advice.
“He gave me some advice about what to do, what not to do,” Martin said. “He said varsity is a faster game. You’ve got to come out and give it your all, not let anybody get in your head.”
Jefferson, who attended Fenwick’s playoff games last year, makes sure that Martin’s head is on straight, and not just on the football field.
“My advice to him is just make sure his grades are good because at some point, sports ends for everybody,” Jefferson said. “(How far Sherman goes) is totally up to him.
“It’s about the work he puts in. If he keeps working hard, the sky’s the limit.”
Martin, who caught two passes for 29 yards in a 41-0 rout of Bowen in Fenwick’s second game, is determined to keep working. He says he has good chemistry with Keller, whom he played with on the sophomore team.
“It’s cool we have that chemistry and you don’t have to renew it every year,” said Martin, who played youth football with the Little Huskies. “You know the spacing and routes and things like that.”
Jefferson still remembers how his brother and other relatives would attend all of his home games at Wisconsin and hopes to return the favor, even though his Saturdays are taken up by his coaching duties.
“I haven’t had a chance to see him this year, but I plan to see him play at some point,” Jefferson said. “Just watching him grow up playing different sports, he’s always been a good athlete. To see him have success is great to see.”
While Martin has Jefferson’s height, he is 140 pounds lighter than his older brother. But his athleticism is obvious. A pitcher and shortstop on the baseball team, Martin aspires to play either football or baseball in college.
But for now, he’s focused on the Friars.
“My goal is to help my teammates win,” Martin said. “They are my brothers and they support me and I want to do whatever I can for them.
“Our goal is just to do the best we can. We want to win the Catholic League and go on to state.”