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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Martin hits recruiting road for Northland football

As a resident of Thief River Falls, Keenan Laidley knew all about the instability of the Northland Community and Technical College football program. When an opportunity came to play football at the Thief River Falls-based college, Laidley had no ...

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Travis Martin

As a resident of Thief River Falls, Keenan Laidley knew all about the instability of the Northland Community and Technical College football program.

When an opportunity came to play football at the Thief River Falls-based college, Laidley had no doubts about it, however. The senior at Goodridge High School has verbally committed to new Pioneers football coach Travis Martin.

“After we lost our last playoff game last fall, I knew how much I’d miss football, how hard it would be to hang up my cleats and walk away,’’ Laidley said. “No one else was recruiting me. (Martin) came out to the school and talked to a few of us. I was excited for the opportunity to continue playing.’’

That’s the reaction the 25-year-old Martin is hoping to receive as he embarks on his first head college football coaching experience.

Martin isn’t taking over a program that is starting from scratch. Rather, he takes over a program that was suspended by the school after the 2013 season. It was announced last September that football would be reinstated for the 2015 season.

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Martin was named head coach in December and started hitting the recruiting trail on Jan. 15.

Martin said he hasn’t heard athletes he is recruiting bring up the season the school suspended football.

“I wouldn’t fault a kid for asking about it,’’ Martin said. “But I wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t something I believed in myself. It was dropped. But now kids have an opportunity to lay the groundwork on where this program is going in the future. It’s a blank slate for them.

“What I can do is show where I want to see things go in the future, what my plans are. I have a little more free rein to do what I want to do than if I was coming into an established program.’’

Martin said he has made it a point to bring up to prospective recruits that the program was dropped for a variety of reasons that now have been resolved or a resolution is being worked on.

 

So far, he said, only high school coaches have mentioned the program’s suspension on his recruiting trips.

“Obviously, they don’t want their kids going somewhere where things aren’t going to work out,’’ Martin said. “They’ve asked if the school is serious about football. I just try to assure them that this is something that is here for the long run.

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“I could understand if kids might be a little hesitant. The whole (suspension) was a surprise when it happened. It is natural for kids to be a little gun shy. My hope is that with the new program they’ll believe the school is serious about football.’’

Martin, a 2008 Grand Forks Red River High School graduate, spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator at Dakota College in Bottineau, N.D. His first day at Northland was on Jan. 5; after spending time dealing with paperwork and getting oriented to his new college, Martin hit the recruiting trail on Jan. 14.

Over the past 1½ weeks, he’s been to 10 area schools, ranging in size from a 9-man program like Goodridge-Grygla to Class 5A Bemidji. He’s spoken to approximately 50 athletes in that time.

So far, Martin has about 13 commitments. A few are from high school students. Some are from students already at Northland, several of whom already compete in sports for the Pioneers.

Martin’s recruiting focus is northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota.

“Obviously, over time, we’ll have some kids coming from different parts of the country,’’ Martin said. “But it starts with building a strong local foundation.
“There is talent in the area schools. I think those small schools are something that are missed when it comes to recruiting. Those kids want to play. We’d be thrilled to give them that opportunity.’’

 

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