CREVE COEUR • Through snow, rain, sleet and gloom of night, the mail was delivered to Nate Martens.
A senior quarterback for the De Smet football team, Martens tried to store the letters he received from colleges in a folder. It quickly became overrun and turned into an unruly pile. Large schools, small schools and everything between paid postage to catch Martens' attention.
So much so that the day nothing came it was a shock.
“There was one day I didn't get mail and my mom was like, 'This is the first day you didn't get mail in two years,' ” Martens said. “It comes in a lot. It's pretty crazy.”
Martens received his first offer from Syracuse as a sophomore, the same year he took over as the Spartans' starting quarterback. It put the left-handed signal caller on the map and put more eyes on him. Martens said there's still a part of him that feels like he needs to be pinched to wake him up from this dream.
“It's crazy. Until I get on campus I don't think I'll actually believe it,” Martens said. “It's a surreal thing. If you told me my freshman year it would happen I'd have told you you were crazy. To be in the situation I am and surrounded by the guys I'm with now is awesome.”
The attention did not, however, affect how he went about his business.
“I put high expectations on myself to perform well and do well,” Martens said. “Offers or not I'm working hard. For me it doesn't really matter.”
Tall and strong at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Martens has the size and strength to make an impact at the next level. He said Northern Iowa, Georgetown and Holy Cross are the three programs he talks with the most. Among the other programs to offer Martens are Eastern Michigan, Temple, Cornell and South Dakota. There are several other coaching staffs talking with Martens and have told him they'd like to see how he performs the first few weeks of the season.
Martens and the Spartans want to start the season strong. It's been a hard two-year learning curve on the varsity for this senior class. Most of them were part of the varsity in limited roles as freshmen. When coach Robert Steeples was hired to lead the program in 2016, those freshmen took over more prominent roles their sophomore year.
It had its highs and lows. As a sophomore Martens threw for 1,969 yards, 17 touchdowns and was intercepted 16 times. The Spartans went 2-8.
Last season Martens threw for 1,647 yards, 11 touchdowns and was intercepted 10 times. He rushed for 321 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. De Smet went 1-9.
“(They) have been through some lean years and to see them to this point and staying as strong as they have I'm grateful for that,” Steeples said. “I'm excited for the opportunity they have ahead of them this year.”
This is the season De Smet turns things around — it hopes.
“We've been young the last couple years and now we have senior leaders that have experience on varsity,” Martens said. “We have to lead the young guys. We've been together forever.”
Whatever happens, it won't be due to a lack of work. Steeples said Martens has been a significant presence within the team his entire career but this season especially. As a senior leader Martens took it upon himself to make his teammates better any way he could.
“Nate has reached back and brought other guys with him. Coaches like guys who can be extensions of themselves as far as leadership and carrying out team values, and he's been a guy for that,” Steeples said. “He's been a strong voice in the huddle as well. He's a guy in the offseason who gets people into the offseason program.”
Martens has several goals set for himself this season. Among them he wants to have a happy birthday. Martens turns 18 the night of De Smet's homecoming game against Vianney. A win over any conference opponent would be welcome. It would be a welcome birthday present and reinforce that all the lifting, training, skill work and film study is worth it.
“It's definitely been hard work. I feel like our guys, especially the seniors, we have really stepped up in the offseason,” Martens said. “It's definitely a grind to get where you want to be. Hopefully it's all worth it. We're looking forward to this season and we're expecting a lot of ourselves.”
2018-19 Post-Dispatch Preseason Super 30 countdown
No. 1: Isaiah Williams, Trinity, QB/ATH
No. 2: Marcus Washington, Trinity, WR
No. 3: Jameson Williams, Cardinal Ritter, WR
No. 4: Shammond Cooper, Trinity, LB
No. 5. Jalani Williams, Parkway North, DB
No. 6. Jack Buford, Lutheran North, OL
No. 7: Kyren Williams, Vianney, ATH
No. 8: Ira Henry, Trinity, OL
No. 9: Maurice Massey, Kirkwood, WR
No. 10: Cam Coleman, Cardinal Ritter, WR
No. 11: MJ Anderson, CBC, DE
No. 12: Moses Okpala, Ladue, DE
No. 13: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, Edwardsville, QB
No. 14: D'Vion Harris, Lutheran North, DE
No. 15: CJ Boone, Parkway North, WR
No. 16: Bryce Childress, Trinity, WR
No. 17. Derrick Miller, John Burroughs, DB
No. 18. Brett Gabbert, CBC, QB
No. 19: Keith Randolph, Belleville West, DE
No. 20: Arvell Ferguson, Kirkwood, DE
No. 21: Dale Chesson, Ladue, WR
No. 22: Isaiah Azuibike, Lutheran North, RB
No. 23: Alphonso Andrews Jr., Trinity, RB
No. 24: Nate Martens, De Smet, QB
No. 25: Josh Plohr, CBC, OL
No. 26: Marquise Simmons, De Smet, OL
No. 27: Bryan Bradford, CBC, RB
No. 28: Keith Jones, Cardinal Ritter, CB
No. 29: Sam LaPorta, Highland, WR
No. 30: Brady Weeks, Fort Zumwalt West, OL
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