RENTON – Charly Martin has 1,077 fewer NFL catches than Terrell Owens. Unlike Deon Butler and Kris Durham, he was not a draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks. And he needs somewhat longer than Ricardo Lockette’s 4.3 seconds to sprint 40 yards.
But the free-agent receiver played his way onto the Seahawks’ 53-man roster while those other candidates did not, making him the longest shot to be on the practice field at team headquarters Monday afternoon.
Fans who might be tempted to ignore Charly Martin as an insignificant depth-chart filler might look back at the Seahawks’ opener last season at San Francisco.
“You think back to last year at this time, who would have thought Doug Baldwin could do what he did?” receivers coach Kippy Brown said, bringing to mind that the undrafted free-agent Baldwin caught a 55-yard touchdown pass that game on his way to becoming the team’s leading receiver (51 catches).
Martin, a native of Walla Walla who competed at the NCAA Division II level (West Texas A&M), landed on this roster by doing everything right in four exhibition games and in dozens of practices during the offseason and training camp.
His margin for error was that slim.
“He did the right thing and was always in the right place,” Brown said. “Not only on offense, but on special teams, too. When he had the occasion to make a play, he made it. He stayed healthy, which was big, and he just never did anything to hurt himself. You could say he took advantage of his opportunities.”
Martin has stayed on the fringes of rosters for three years, signing first with San Diego and then playing with Carolina most of the past two years, making one catch for 6 yards. He was waived by the Panthers last September and signed briefly to Jacksonville’s practice squad last December.
So he knew the drill, understood the odds, the impermanence, and the way the numbers work against the undrafted.
“You have to be ready,” he said. “You can only control so much, so you have to be mentally ready to go when you get the opportunity. I think it brings high praise to this organization that they give you the opportunity, and if you’re ready to take advantage of it, you get a fair shake.”
Martin scored points with the staff with his special teams play, and with his consistency catching the ball and running routes. But he also earned the trust of a very important teammate: rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
When Wilson broke free for a 32-yard touchdown in the preseason opener against Tennessee, Martin blocked his man from about the 15-yard line into the end zone to clear the way.
Thirteen days later, as Wilson was about to get nailed by Kansas City’s Tamba Hali, Martin broke free and pulled in a touchdown throw from Wilson. This builds an important rapport.
Brown explained the value of Martin’s versatility, and why it helped his cause – Martin can play both flanker and split end.
“He’s like Ben Obomanu,” Brown said. “He can play every position. When we go into a game and maybe have four (receivers active), you’ve got to have a couple guys who can play everywhere so you’re OK if you have an injury.”
The product of a family of wheat farmers in Walla Walla, Martin grew up a Seahawks fan. He moved to New Mexico for high school, and attended West Texas A&M, where one of the assistant coaches was former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf.
Although Leaf’s fame has deteriorated due to recurring personal issues, Martin cited his coaching efforts at the small Texas school, and considers him a “very close friend.”
Martin was married in July, and his wife, a speech pathologist, is about to set up housekeeping in Seattle.
In his three seasons of trying to cling to NFL rosters, Martin never considered giving it up, or finding work that didn’t involve catching footballs.
“I went to school and got a great education, but I decided I was going to enjoy playing football as long as I could,” he said. “I’m blessed every day to come out here to play for a living, and as long as I can, I’m going to give it 110 percent.”email@example.com