JEFFERSON—It’s been a while since Jefferson’s Tab Martin has missed a snap.
The 5-foot-8, 170 pound senior has been starting for Jefferson since he was a freshman, and never had to pay his dues on the scout team. That’s because he was ready to play from day one.
“I played one way my freshman year at corner, then in my sophomore year I started playing both ways,” Martin said. “I’m used to it now, but I have to work hard over the summer to stay in shape.”
Despite having to learn twice the amount of plays and train for twice the amount of playing time, Martin hasn’t had a single problem starting at two positions for the fourth-ranked Dragons (11-0). He leads all Jefferson receivers with 582 yards on 39 receptions and has also collected 44 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high eight pass deflections at cornerback this year.
“If you’re smart enough, you can do it,” he said.
Regardless of how much football he’s played in his high school career, Martin is ready for more. And that’s exactly what he’ll get when Jefferson plays host to Lovett (8-3) on Friday in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
“We have to stay focused and do what we’re supposed to do,” Martin said. “Hopefully our playmakers and our execution will help us win the game.”
Jefferson’s upcoming game shouldn’t be as easy as their 34-13 win against Coosa in the first round, but Martin believes that his team still has a legitimate chance to topple the 2007 state runner-up Lions and go deep in the state playoffs.
He even suggests topping the postseason off with a win in a much bigger setting than Jefferson Memorial Stadium: the Georgia Dome.
“We just want to win and reach our goal, which is to make it to the Dome,” he said. “We have to give 100 percent and leave no doubt on the field.”
It’s reassuring words like those that earned Martin the title of team captain, as voted by his teammates.
“He has really established himself as a team leader,” Dragons coach Bill Navas said. “The thing I’m most pleased about is how he has grown up and matured. He’s done some great things for us.”
Martin may be doing some great things for another school after high school, as well. With Presbyterian, Savannah State and other Division I-AA and Division II schools showing interest in him, there’s a good chance he’ll be wearing someone else’s pads in the upcoming years.
“He just seems to make plays,” Navas said. “He has a good knack for football and a good head for the game.
“He has good footwork, good hips, good quickness, but he also understands the game of football. He’s a strong and fast kid and will be fine at the next level.”
But like any two-way player headed to college, Martin will have to pick one position to play. Despite his success as a receiver, Navas believes that Martin is best fitted for a defensive position at the college level.
“He’ll probably be a defensive back at the college level,” Navas said. “That’s what he has the most experience doing.”
Should that be the eventual outcome, Martin has no problem with it.
“I like playing defense because you don’t have to worry about holding on to the ball and you can let loose,” he said. “If I go to college I’ll probably play defense anyway.”
If colleges need team numbers to validate Martin’s skills as a defender, then a scholarship could be well on its way. The Dragons are allowing an average of 11.4 points per game, the seventh-best among the 16 remaining teams in AA, and with a team average of 37.9 points per game, and Jefferson’s 26.5 point differential is currently the third-best in Class AA.
Martin hasn’t been alone in the effort either, as he isn’t the only two-way skill player on the team. Zac Crosby, a senior, also plays receiver and defensive back. Together the two have created a destructive tandem with the ball in their hands, whether it’s catching it from their own quarterback or intercepting it from the opponent’s.
“Zac’s my homeboy,” Martin said about his teammate of five years. “We hang out not only on the field but off the field too.”
But with his high school football career on the line and a state title at stake, Martin’s shared goal of winning the state championship is bringing all his teammates together.
“We all act like brothers,” he said. “If somebody’s down, we pick them up.”