6/16/10 1:14 PM
By Heather Crowley
Nothing about Outlaws defenseman Eric Martin is typical.
Martin’s path to the pros did not follow the typical lacrosse schematics. The athletic defender didn’t start for a Division I powerhouse or descend from a lineage of national champions. His hometown is hardly a hotbed of recruits.
But now Martin is a veteran defenseman for the Denver Outlaws who hopes his past success can help create an even brighter future for his team. With his Californian lifestyle Martin consistently delivers some of the roughest hits in the league while grabbing up groundballs.
As the 2010 summer started with the hoisting of a trophy for the NLL’s Washington Stealth, Martin hopes the summer ends in a similar fashion with a title for Denver. After three appearances in the MLL championship and last season’s heartbreaking one goal loss to the Toronto Nationals in the title game, this could be the year Denver finally takes it all.
“We need a complete game from everyone on the team, no passengers,” Martin said. “Because of the Championship Weekend format we need to be the best conditioned team - back to back games in Maryland summer heat is tough.”
But in the beginning, lacrosse didn’t even show up on Martin’s radar. Lacrosse seemed as likely of a future as cricket or step dancing. So how is it that Martin now runs a well-known lacrosse clinic, plays on two pro teams and operates a nonprofit lacrosse program? The simple answer: determination and hard work.
The young athlete’s first interaction with lacrosse came in his freshman year of high school, extremely late by lacrosse standards. At the end of his high school career few teams made an offer to the senior. With a few options laid out, Martin decided to play lacrosse at Division III Salisbury State University and the choice catapulted him to the top of the lacrosse world. The “nobody” from Norfolk, VA became a very important “somebody” to a dominant Salisbury team.
As a Seagull, Martin proved to be a team player and won back-to-back National Titles in 2003 and 2004. Individual accolades followed as he grabbed All-American, Defender of the Year and Player of the Year Awards. Martin came from nowhere and walked away after four years with a trophy case full of hardware through working hard day in and day out.
“Each title is very special and represents a different stage in my playing career,” Martin said. “Winning in 2003 was the happiest moment on the field for me. Winning with my college teammates that year was the culmination of three years of hard work paying off. And winning 14-13 in OT in a monsoon is tough to do.”
After considerable collegiate success Martin entered the professional leagues and his teams had high expectations. The young defender became a dedicated member of the Washington Stealth (formerly San Jose Stealth) and to date has missed just five games during his career. This year Martin helped lead the Stealth to its first ever title and again hoisted a championship trophy.
“It felt unreal, I was on cloud nine when we won,” Martin said. “It was a game for the ages, and I am thrilled we were the victors.”
As if one professional team wasn’t enough Martin took on double duty and played his first MLL season in Rochester. After one year Martin got shipped to the San Francisco Dragons, with fellow superstar Ryan Powell, in a trade. Martin threw the typical lacrosse lifestyle out the window as he moved to San Francisco, a place hardly known for lacrosse, and made it his home. Martin became more than a temporary resident of the bay area.
The Dragons folded after three seasons, but Martin continued to make California his home.
“San Francisco is the greatest city in the US,” Martin said. “It's got everything, the beautiful outdoors, surf, different climates on the same day - in the summer it can be 50 degrees in San Francisco and 100 degrees across the Golden Gate Bridge. There is ridiculous night life and skiing3 hours away, what's not to like?”
The defensemen applied his on field intensity to off the field matters. Martin became involved in Save the Bay and is one of the co-founders of a non-profit group called One City Lacrosse. The organization provides free lacrosse programs throughout the city. The program gives free instruction and equipment to children, mostly in low income areas. One City Lacrosse helps expand and spread the sport of lacrosse while simultaneously making children more active.
Undoubtedly as the sport grows on the east coast, it is quickly making its way westward. In 2009 San Francisco welcomed its first taste of men’s Division I lacrosse as University of North Carolina took on Brown University in the inaugural San Francisco Lacrosse Fall Classic. The event drew 4,789 fans and all of the proceeds from the event went to the Bay Area Youth Foundation (BAYS). After a successful inaugural game the event is set again for fall 2010 and will feature Johns Hopkins University and University of Notre Dame.
“Lacrosse is huge out here, especially at the youth level,” Martin said. “I had a guy ask me what sport I was playing yesterday, I asked him if he owned a TV.”
So what’s next for the chippy defender?
Martin will play alongside Denver teammates Max Seibald, Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf for Team USA in the World Championships this summer. Donning the red, white and blue is a new experience for Martin and he will try to propel the United States back to gold medal status. When asked his thoughts about Team USA he only offered one word: “Gold”. This summer Martin has a couple of opportunities to add more accolades and trophies to his already impressive resume.
So what does the Outlaws defender enjoy when he’s not delivering hard hits on the field?
Favorite Movie: Avatar
Favorite TV Show: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Favorite Pregame Meal: Subway. If it's the night of the game - chicken parmesan w/ pasta
Favorite Lacrosse Memory: Ask me after the summer
Best Vacation Spot: OBX, North Carolina
Sport you like to watch besides lacrosse: Football
Favorite City: San Francisco, California
Favorite Nickname: EMart
Favorite Childhood Toy/Game: Street Hockey
Most Embarrassing Moment (lacrosse or not): Pick any bus ride in elementary school
Thoughts on Paul Rabil's Hair: In his own words "EPIC"
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com