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Wagner still smarting after opening-weekend loss
Matt Martin was a pre-season All-Northeast Conference first team selection. (Photo by David Saffran)Wagner College’s season-opening 45-42 loss to Stonehill last weekend was like a punch to the stomach.
Or so it seemed to fifth-year senior Matt Martin, the team’s 6-foot-4, 315-pound right offensive guard.
“Nobody likes to lose … nobody wants to walk off the field feeling like that,” said Martin. “It was real disheartening, real disappointing.
“But we have no choice but to fight back and play even harder. We did some good things and I think we played with heart, but we made too many mistakes, myself included.
“We’ll stick together and I believe we can get a winning streak going.”
The 0-1 Seahawks get that chance tomorrow night at 1-0 SUNY-Maritime, a NCAA Division III opponent, in a 7 p.m. non-conference game.
By the way, it wouldn’t be advisable to punch Martin in the stomach any time soon.
The massive lineman has built a reputation as a player with “a rare blend of size, strength and agility,” as the school’s publicity department describes it.
Martin’s strength and weight-lifting numbers have even caught the attention of NFL scouts, who have been sniffing around the Grymes Hill campus for game film.
“He’s a big, strong kid with quick feet,” said 29th-year head coach Walt Hameline. “He has good size and he’s experienced, and probably his best asset is that he’s a great athlete.”
Martin can dunk a basketball, a sport he played at Pennsauken (N.J.) High School. He also excelled on the track and field team in the shot put and discus.
But Martin has also been injury-prone.
Knee and ankle problems put him on the shelf early last season, and he decided to redshirt and return for a final year of eligibility while beginning work on a master’s degree in finance.
The Seahawks are glad he’s healthy and playing again.
“We’re so much better with him on the field,” offensive coordinator Jim Gibbons told the Advance last month. “He’s so physical he can engulf a defensive lineman.”
Martin and Hameline have cultivated a close relationship over the years.
“(Hameline) gave me a chance when a lot of people wouldn’t coming out of high school,” said Martin. “He took the time to get to know me and my family and that means a lot.
“Wagner College has been a very good experience. If the purpose of college is to help you grow up and discover the person you’ll be in the real world, then I’d say I made a good choice. I think Wagner has been a good place for me in that regard.”
Said Hameline: “At the end of the day, my job is to win football games. Winning football games is what it’s all about. I think we can get better. We have to get better.
“It’s easy when you win. Losing is a real test. But I’ve been around long enough to be able to take a half-step back and realize that we’re developing young people and that their lives are still ahead of them.”
Martin said he doesn’t put much stock in individual honors. He was named an All-Northeast Conference preseason first-team selection by Phil Steele’s College Football Preview.
“I want a conference championship ring,” he said. “If you win, everybody’s happy. I just want to win.”
By Jim Waggoner, Staten Island Advance