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Bobby Martin's message to his William Fleming players is simple: Put your family before yourself.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Bobby Martin is William Fleming High School’s new head football coach. His coaching philosophy has made an immediate impact on the Colonels’ mindset.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
William Fleming head football coach Bobby Martin instructs a player during a preseason scrimmage against Chatham High School.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Bobby Martin wanted to make sure there was zero chance he would be misunderstood.
“Write this down,” said the new William Fleming High School football coach in tones of a man who is accustomed to being in charge. “Hard work, family, selfless. Those are the words I’ve used since I’ve been here.”
Never mind the new offense and defense, or a dictionary full of fresh terminology, or rugged runs up and down that heartbreaker of a hill, or having that great distance to cross in a short period of opportunity, Martin starts by teaching the basics. The basics in the Martin book include football but are not confined to it.
His new players know what the deal is.
“Me, I’m a big person about the selfless thing,” junior Jerome Hill said. “To see a whole bunch of stuff going on that happened last year but now, it’s changed a lot — everybody’s working together. We’re more focused on working together, doing it for the person next to you, rather than doing it for yourself.”
Family is another concept immediately understood.
“We’re a brotherhood here,” junior Michael Gravely said. “Most of us have been playing together since we were 5 or 6. We’ve been waiting for this moment since we was young. From the strongest link to the weakest link, all of them are my brothers and I love them.”
Likewise, hard work requires no definition.
“He’s lighting a fire under everybody,” Hill said. “Everybody wants to do the work because everybody wants to play. “
A willingness to work is the minimum qualification.
“If you can’t run, you can’t play. That’s his motto,” Hill said.
Martin, former head football and basketball coach at George Washington, assistant elsewhere, football player at Virginia Tech and old Henry County secondary school Laurel Park, is an athletic traditionalist. As such, his life philosophy fits neatly around his life work.
“It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than you,” he said.
Martin brings his views straight from the cradle.
“My father and mother James Martin and Katherine Martin, we didn’t have very much growing up and those were the things they taught us. Shut your mouth up and work hard; help your family out; and get yourself out of the way. Love your family. Put your family before yourself.”
Those words are written in his parents’ handwriting on his heart.
“I thought they were really, really hard on us growing up. But I am so thankful now because it gave me a foundation to stand on. That’s where we come from.”
After going 2-28 the past three seasons, these Colonels need something to stand on.
They’d better be standing on quick feet hooked to a strong body.
“We’re way more conditioned than we ever have been,” said Gravely, whose positions list at running back, center, tight end and H-back. “During summer workouts, we were out there sometime running for three hours. He takes that very seriously.”
Still does, especially on those occasions when Martin’s new ballclub — 46 varsity players, two short of double what they ended the 2012 season with — is not paying attention to detail. Offenders are sent en masse down a very steep hill from the plateaued expanse of the Bermuda grass practice field to the fence that runs along Ferncliff Avenue. Then it’s straight back up.
Running hills, a time-tested method of focusing attention.
“Coach is tough, but he’s fair,” said Chris Akers, one of Fleming’s assistant coaches.
Akers, who commutes to practice every day from his job teaching physical education at Westwood Middle in Danville, hails from Bluefield and his own school days at Graham. Thus he knows all about tough but fair. Akers came from the coaching tradition established by late G-Men boss Glynn Carlock, United States Marine Corps leatherneck tough, 254-game and three state championship winner.
Carlock old school? That school isn’t open anymore.
Martin was a student in a similar academy. After working with him when Martin was interim head coach at G.W. last year, Akers wanted to join him at his new post.
“He called me and said, if it’s OK with you I’ll drive up there and help you,” Martin said. “Man, I told him, I’ll be real thankful for you. I call that commitment and loyalty.”
Really hoofing it (legally, of course, but via back roads), Akers makes it to work in an hour and 40 minutes. Meanwhile, he’s applied for a job in the Roanoke schools. Martin’s ultimate goal is to have all his coaches working at Fleming with him.
There’s plenty of work to do right now. Martin’s going with a four-man front defense – his specialty – and a one back spread offense, quarterback in shotgun. Even if they’re familiar with concepts, players have a lot of new knowledge to digest while doing so in a short amount of time.
First, they will be expected to measure up to a standard that has nothing and everything to do with football.
“If you say you’re going do something, do it,” Martin said. “If you can’t do it, don’t say you can.”
What everybody really wants to hear is when is this program going to get back on the right track? Martin makes no predictions.
“You have some down years and each individual tries to pick it up, it don’t happen,” he said. “When we all start to pick each other up, then we can change things.”
Write it down.
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