Once the offensive and defensive linemen had finished their camp to begin The Opening Regional at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, and the running backs and linebackers had also cleared the field, all that were left were the wide receivers, tight ends, quarterbacks and defensive backs. And Cameron Martinez.
With the number “881” emblazoned on both sides of his torso, Martinez carried himself around the field as if he’d competed in The Opening regularly. The high school junior walked about the other receivers like a veteran, chatting up other prospects and coaches and walking about the sidelines while the other receivers remained in place along the line behind the one-on-one drill taking place.
Martinez, who plays quarterback for Muskegon High School in Michigan and is being recruited as a defensive back and a wide receiver by several Power Five programs, including Ohio State, stepped to the line at the wideout position – which he plays the least among the three – with confident intent.
On his first rep, the 5-foot-10 athlete sprinted about seven yards upfield and made a hard cut back toward the sideline. The throw pulled Martinez off his feet, forcing him to make a catch away from his body, while several coaches called out, “Nice hands!”
Cameron Martinez had arrived, and to him, there was no one else better at the showcase.
“I kind of took offense to not getting that MVP because I felt like I was doing a lot,” Martinez said after the regional showcase. “I like competing against the best of the best, and I think I’m up there with some of the best.”
The three-star recruit is rated as the No. 415 player overall in the 2020 class, as well as the No. 31 athlete and No. 9 prospect out of Michigan. Yet, programs like Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State are targeting him and pushing hard for his commitment.
Much of the covet comes from the intangibles Martinez brings to the table already. He has the confidence, the leadership, the vision and the football intelligence. He’s played nearly everywhere on a football field too.
“It’s something I’ve just been doing at a young age,” Martinez said about his mentality. “Once I have that competitive mindset, I just think I’m unstoppable.”
As Michigan High School Player of the Year in 2018, Martinez carried the ball 254 times for 2,527 yards and 38 touchdowns – all single-season school records at Muskegon. His team only passed the ball a handful of times per game, but he hit 31-of-58 passes for 12 touchdowns and one interception.
Boiled down, Muskegon’s offense consists of snapping the ball to Martinez at the quarterback position for designed runs that eventually crumble into him improvising his way to open space. But it’s worked, as Muskegon advanced all the way to the Division 3 State Championship game in 2018, losing 41-25.
That will likely change in 2019, though. Martinez hopes to get more work in at wide receiver during his senior season. That’s not simply because the coaching staff believes it has another quarterback. Martinez wants more time at receiver because he doesn’t want to play quarterback at the next level, nor do many Power Five teams. He wants to play either wideout or safety, and he’s leaning toward safety.
“I love touching the ball. I love the ball in my hands, but naturally I think I’m better at the safety spot,” Martinez said. “Being (at Ohio State) Friday, Coach (Jeff) Hafley was saying – we’re always asking questions because I have League aspirations – he says he thinks I could have a longer career playing at the safety position.”
Martinez is exploring his options because he has been placed in the unusual position of being able to decide for himself where he would like to play at the next level. Two programs he mentioned that would allow him to choose where to play are Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline has told Martinez he could see the Michigan standout playing at the H-back position and contribute similarly to current Ohio State wideout K.J. Hill. Hafley likes him at the new Bullet position.
For Martinez, the defensive side of the ball has become a more natural place on the field after growing up and working on being the best offensive player he could be.
“Growing up, I was kind of more the receiver,” Martinez said. “Defense, when I got into high school, it just seemed like it came to me easier. I didn’t need to work on it that much. It was just something I was always able to do. If I put more of the work into it and play it on the field, I think I’d be unstoppable.”
The highly decorated athlete was in Columbus on March 29 after needing to reschedule his visit from March 23, and he said he “loved” the trip and left “really happy.”
“They’re all really excited about what they see in me,” Martinez said about Ohio State. “They said the least of my worries is to decide what position I want to play. They said they’d take me either way. I think (being able to choose a position is) good because a lot coaches know how special I am. It’s rare for people to have players they want to do both or they don’t care. Having that in the back of my head, where it’s my decision to do either one and I’m not forced to do one, it helps me with my decision process too.”