While the current COVID-19 virus has many in despair, Wicksburg senior football player Reece Martin and his family were in a celebratory mood Thursday.
Martin, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker for the Panthers this past fall, signed a letter-of-intent Thursday afternoon to play for the Lake Erie College Storms, a Division-II program in Painesville, Ohio, and a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Martin held his signing ceremony at the Dream Chasers Sports Performance Training facility on South Oates Street near downtown Dothan.
“We were planning to do it at the school, but obviously it got shut down,” Martin said. “I felt like I still wanted to go ahead and do it, so the friends who could make it came down to support me. I am real glad I got to do it.”
Martin added “It feels great (to sign). Having all my friends, family and coaches come out to support me is a really good feeling.”
This past season while playing linebacker and some defensive end, Martin earned 94 tackles, including 28 for losses and 13 quarterback sacks.
“I can play the pass and can play the run,” Martin said. “I can make reads real quick and see where it (the play) is going and go make the play.”
Wicksburg head coach Josh Cox said Martin was one of the hardest working and better athletes on the Panther team.
“He was one of the top workers and he deserves this,” Cox said. “I hate all this panic went on to where we couldn’t do this at the school. He is one of the better athletes we’ve had. He has done a great job and he works hard. I wish he wasn’t going so far away from home so I can watch him, but I am glad he is getting this opportunity.”
Cox said Martin combined natural instincts along with power to make plays for the Panther defense.
“He has a nose for the football as he was around the ball,” Cox said. “He made some good plays.
“Physically, he worked hard in the weight room and he is a strong kid, especially in his lower body.”
In addition to playing linebacker, Martin also filled in this past year in the offensive backfield when injuries mounted for the Panthers. He played some H-Back as the lead blocker, at fullback and some at tailback. He had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances near the end of the season, earning 112 yards and one TD in a 21-10 win over Houston Academy and 155 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in a 27-21 win over Geneva.
“We had several guys go down and he filled that spot and made some big plays for us,” Cox said.
Though a recent planned trip to visit the Lake Erie campus fell through because of a virus-related shutdown of the school, Martin said he and his family will visit there during the summer.
Still, he had heard enough from the coaches and seen enough off the internet to be impressed with the Storms.
“Really just the coaches,” Martin said of what he was impressed with about the program. “They were very patient while I made my decision and they talked to me about where they want me to play and what they think I can do up there. I really liked the program.”
The Panther senior said Lake Erie coaches indicated he would likely play outside linebacker with emphasis on rushing the quarterback.