For those of you who don’t know, Martin Parker is a defensive tackle from Richmond. He was a four year starter there, graduated this year, and was invited to the East-West Shrine Game which is where I first met him. I interviewed him before the game during the week, and again on the field after his team dominated the game and he was named the Defensive MVP of the contest. Then he went to the NFL Combine and put up impressive numbers measuring in at 6’2″, 303 pounds, running a 4.95 40 yard dash time (officially) and had 22 reps on the bench press. After all of this, though, he was passed over in the NFL draft, much to the surprise of myself and the draft community at large. But Martin is not one to give up easily, he continued training and working hard, even ending up on the roster of the Chicago Rush, an Arena Football League team during the lockout. Now he has been signed to an undrafted free agent deal with the NFL’s New York Giants. Nothing is guaranteed for him, but he is ready for the next challenge and I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about it.
Tom: A lot has happened since we last spoke! Do you mind if we start from after the shrine game and work our way back to where we are now?
Martin: Sure, well I was lucky enough to get an invite to the combine and I was able to go out to Indianapolis and I felt lucky to be able to go on the Colts field and work out with all of those guys, and I actually performed better than I thought I would so I really thought I was going to get drafted after the combine. Then the draft rolled around and I was watching it with my family and friends and I didn’t get drafted, but I took it on the chin and woke up the next day and kept training and working because I knew my time would come. During the process while the NFL was still locked out the Chicago Rush from the AFL approached me about playing there and after talking it over with my agent we decided it couldn’t hurt and that I could benefit from it, so I went there for about 6 weeks and played in 6 games for them. I ended up with 6 sacks, but it was a huge transition. Counter moves don’t work there, it’s all about your get-off and your initial pass rush move, which was something I needed to work on, so being there for 6 weeks gave me an opportunity to do that and it helped me improve my initial get off and my initial pass rush move. Then I went back to training, and the lockout ended and I got a lot of offers, but the Giants were my first one and it was a great fit for me seeing as they are a team that focuses on the defensive line with their defensive scheme, so I knew they were the team I wanted to go to as soon as I got the offer on Monday. 2 hours after I got it I gave them the word and accepted their offer and here we are today.
Tom: Wow, great synopsis. If you don’t mind I’m going to delve into some more of it to get more specific on some parts.
Martin: Sure, go ahead.
Tom: Ok, great. What was the combine like? I was very impressed with your showing there but I’m sure it was a unique experience.
Martin: It was just a totally new experience, there was no way to prepare for it. On TV you only see the drills, the 40 yard dashes, and the other physical tests they put you through, but behind the scenes so much more goes on.
Tom: What stuck out to you most? Did anything particularly weird happen to you?
Martin: Nothing particularly weird no, but I’d say the thing that stuck out to me most was just realizing that I could compete with these D-1 athletes from Florida State, Auburn, and other powerhouse schools and that I could play on this level.
Tom: How many teams did you conduct an interview with?
Martin: I’d say the majority of the league. I talked with a lot of the teams, I’m not sure exactly how many.
Tom: What were the interviews like? Were they all similar or did they vary a lot?
Martin: I’d say they were similar for the most part, they wanted to feel me out as a person and as a player. They wanted to see how much I knew about the game, how high my football IQ was, whether I was a team player or not, stuff like that. They wanted to know what my coaches and teammates would say about me if they asked, and I was always a team player, a good teammate and a good kid in college, so I knew they would say good things.
Tom: So you checked out huh? No skeletons in your closet!
Martin: Nope I checked out just fine.
Tom: Did any teams bring up your performance at the East-West practices when they talked to you?
Martin: Not a lot of them, but the head coach from Miami (Tony Sporano) brought it up and told me the film he saw from that week was the best film that he had seen of me and that it showed I had clearly progressed since the last game of the season, which was great to hear, especially since I felt I had progressed also. But it was good to hear that from someone else.
Tom: How did you arrange things for your pro day? I know you and Justin [Rogers, CB, Bills, 7th Round] both came from Richmond, did you guys just hold it there or did you hold it with some more guys some place else?
Martin: Justin and I both went back to Richmond for our pro-days. It’s funny, my trainers and everyone else told me not to run my 40 yard dash again at my pro-day because I had done well when I was timed at the combine so I wasn’t going to, but two minutes before my name was called I decided I was going to do it again and I ended up running a 4.92 which was even better than my combine time, it’s funny how those things work out sometimes. I also improved on my bench press numbers from my combine.
Tom: That’s a great story! And clearly you felt prepared enough to do both of those things again even though you had prepared well, to me that speaks to your preparation and your work ethic, and it shows that you kept working hard even after your combine performance.
Martin: Exactly and that’s what I wanted to show the teams that came to see me at my pro-day.
Tom: Ok, so what did you do on draft day?
Martin: I went back to Connecticut and had all of my family and even some friends from Richmond up to my house and we watched the draft together, so it was hard when I didn’t get drafted.
Tom: How tough was it not hearing your name called on draft day?
Martin: It was really tough, I was really down about it the night after the draft ended, but I knew that wasn’t the end of my journey, it was just the beginning, so the next morning I got out of bed early as usual and got back to training and that has led me back to this great opportunity to be a member of the Giants.
Tom: That’s a perfect attitude to have, that’s great to hear. What was the most helpful or best piece of advice you got after the draft?
Martin: I’d say that the most helpful thing I heard after the draft was from my Uncles. They told me before the draft even started that they were very proud of me for the hard work that I had put in to get to this point, they were proud that I had finished school at Richmond and they were proud of the football career that I had already had up to this point, so that was great to hear. And they said the same thing after the draft.
Tom: That’s great to hear, I’m glad you have that kind of a support system behind you. So where have you been training?
Martin: I’ve been training in downtown Manhattan, and I have been training with a guy who had never had a client specifically for the combine before. He was an Olympic athlete so he helped me with all of my speed work.
Tom: Well after your combine and pro-day performance I guess it’s safe to say whatever he does works!
Martin: Haha, definitely. He helped me out a lot.
Tom: I remember you saying you wanted to work on your leverage and flexibility, how is that coming?
Martin: Yeah I definitely wanted to work on that, and the AFL actually really helped improve that. I wanted to be able to keep my leverage and get under the offensive linemen to drive them back, and I wanted to have the flexibility to dip my shoulder and drive around the edge to get to the quarterback, so playing in the AFL for 6 games really helped me improve that along with my initial moves.
Tom: Hand usage is a huge part of playing defensive tackle, some guys do MMA training to improve that, how would you describe your hand usage and would you ever consider that kind of training regimen?
Martin: I actually have done some MMA work and I would definitely say it helps. It teaches you to be violent with your hands obviously, which is a huge part of keeping blockers off of you. And being a 4 year starter at Richmond and having played in three different defensive schemes with three different coaching staffs I’ve seen every scheme and every block you can see, so being able to improve your hand usage to keep blockers off of you and to shed blocks is very important.
Tom: What teams called (or maybe we should start with what teams DIDN’T call!) once they were allowed to talk to you?
Martin: A lot of teams called, over half the league called I would say, so it was good to feel wanted and to feel that people thought I deserved a shot, but after I got the Giants offer and talked to my agent about it we knew that was the best fit for me, so we decided to accept that offer early just so we could get the process over with.
Tom: What made you ultimately decide to go to New York?
Martin: It’s just a great fit like I said before. They are known for their defensive line and their defensive line is what makes their entire scheme go, and I am really excited to be a part of a team that has such an intense focus on the play of the defensive line because it will be a great experience for me. Plus playing with a defensive line that has had so much experience making plays and being disruptive will be great.
Tom: How rewarding was it when you finally signed with the Giants and had a spot?
Martin: It’s funny, everyone around me was more excited that I was. It’s funny how that happens sometimes, but it was more of a relief for me than anything. After the combine I was convinced that I could play at this level, but I thought that I was going to get drafted. Not getting drafted was obviously a humbling experience though, and the wait was a long one to finally get signed because of the lockout. So after that long process, which was essentially an 8 month interview starting in December, it was nice to finally know where I was going so I could get back to playing football again.
Tom: What is the one thing you are most looking forward to at training camp?
Martin: Just stepping out on that field you know? I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time, and to finally have my chance in the NFL is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. I can’t wait to get out there and play some football again.
Tom: Do you think you can make the 53 man roster? I know what my answer is, but I thought I’d ask you first.
Martin: Hahaha. Absolutely I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could make the roster. Obviously it won’t be easy, but nothing has been given to me or been easy for me up to this point, so there’s no reason this should be any easier. But I am committed, I work hard and I am ready to get out there and compete. I am going to approach every day of practice like it is a game and just give it my all, that’s all I can really do.
Tom: Who was the first person you called after you agreed to go to the Giants?
Martin: Haha, I called my mom and then I told the rest of my family. They were really excited.
Tom: What is your opinion of Lawrence Sidbury? Did you ever get to start alongside him?
Martin: Yeah I got two start next to him for two or three years… I think two. It was great playing with him because he is just so fast and so quick off the ball. You almost felt like as a defensive tackle that you would be guaranteed a shot at a sack every game because he forced quarterbacks to step up in the pocket so consistently. It was great playing with him. It was definitely a transition for me personally after he left for the NFL and I had to play without him.
Tom: Do you think he is ready to contribute to the Falcons rotation? We could really use the pass rush.
Martin: Definitely. I’m just waiting for him to get unleashed and rush the passer like everyone knows he can. Hopefully this is the year for that.
Tom: Ok, fun question: Where is your MVP trophy from the East-West Shrine Game at this moment?
Martin: Hahahaha… wow… where is it…
Tom: I got you! Character concern #1!
Martin: Hahaha. I think it’s in a box at my house, stored in a safe place obviously.
Tom: Ready for you to move close to the Giants facility when they lock you up long term!
Martin: Haha, exactly!
Tom: Are there any up and coming Richmond Spiders I should keep an eye and an ear out for?
Martin: Definitely. Aaron Corp sticks out obviously. We have a bunch of guys that are going to be seniors, so Richmond is a team to watch out for this year!
Tom: Duly noted! And I don’t know what kind of consolation this is, but after the draft, the entire draftnik community was convinced that you were the consensus “player who should have been drafted”, how does that make you feel? Haha
Martin: That’s great to hear! Obviously I agree with that and I think I should have been drafted, but there were reasons that I wasn’t. That’s all in the past now though, and I can’t worry about any of that now that I have gotten my shot with the Giants.
Tom: Well I for one was extremely happy that you got a spot, I was keeping one eye on Twitter, the other on ESPN, and listening to NFL Network to try to find out as soon as possible when you were going to get picked up, because I knew it was going to happen. I Can’t describe my elation when I heard you signed, can’t imagine how happy you must have been. I texted my colleague Benjamin Allbright who founded NFL Draft Monsters the second I heard and we were both very happy for you. So from all of us at NFL Draft Monsters congratulations, good luck, and just know that we, as well as thousands of other fans and supporters are pulling for you to make the 53 man roster!
Thank you so much for the interview! It has been too long since we last spoke, I will keep in touch better than I did the past few months. Good luck in training camp and never hesitate to give me a ring or shoot me a text, I’d always love to hear from you. Unless you’ve got any questions for me, I’m all done with the interview!
Martin: No questions from my end, thanks for the call!
Tom: No problem Martin. Thanks again, and kick some ass and take some names in training camp!
Martin: Haha, will do!
The New York Giants open training camp today at their team headquarters near New Meadowlands Stadium.