A member of Oakman’s junior varsity squad, Martin earned the opportunity to step on the field with the varsity in the second half of the contest when the Wildcats were firmly in control of the game — and did not disappoint teammates, coaches or anyone in attendance at Hosea Collins Stadium.
Martin led the defense with five tackles and was constantly in place to make plays against the Bobcats’ offense. Also contributing on offense, he scored the final touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run to seal the 69-6 final.
The tenacity and drive that Martin shows on the field, however, is nothing new — it’s the same never-quit attitude that has been on display since he waged battle seven years ago in another fight — the fight for his life.
In 2007 Martin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma — a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.
It was news that left the then-second grader, already a competitor in several athletic sports, realizing he had a much more different and important challenge on his hands...one he knew he had to win.
“The worries were there. You don’t get news like that and simply shrug it completely off,” Martin said. “I was playing baseball at the time and in my mind, I had to beat it and get back out there to my team — I wasn’t going to let it beat me.”
Martin’s mother, Misty, said that his focus during the therapy was to get back onto the playing field, using his deep love for athletics and competition as a driving force to become cancer-free.
“Throughout his therapy, all he wanted to do was get done with the day’s treatment so he could play baseball,” Misty said.
“We would leave the clinic where he was having chemotherapy and immediately drive to baseball practice. That was his mind set — ‘I’ve got to go to practice.’ That focus is what I believe helped him overcome his challenge. We also received such wonderful support from coaches, other parents and everyone around us. God really blessed us throughout the entire time.”
Oakman quarterback Jase Trotter, a longtime friend of Martin’s, recalled the fighting spirit the young boy had throughout the therapy period.
Trotter said that Martin’s example has served as an inspiration for him and several other Wildcat players.
“Garrett was on my dad’s baseball team when he was going through his battle with cancer — so I was able to see what he was enduring, and I have watched him grow up,” Trotter said. He would come over to my house sometimes after baseball practice and I would have the chance to talk to him about what he was overcoming. It was really awesome to see him fight through it and I look at him today, cancer free and performing great at the varsity football game. It’s very inspirational to me to see him in the weightroom and working hard — it makes me want to work as hard as he does.”
Now cancer-free for over six years, Martin continues to use the same determination and will power to get better on the gridiron. For Martin, football is an outlet to further his drive to win.
“Football has really helped me through school — it makes me want to get good grades so I can play the best I am capable of for my team,” Martin said. “I like to get out on the field and show that I can contribute to my team — it’s always been my goal to show I can put my team before any personal glory and to help them win championships.”
The impression that Martin leaves on the Oakman football program hasn’t been lost on the coaching staff, either.
Head coach Mark Hastings stated that Martin’s attitude and drive, as well as his constant goals of improving his gameplay make him a valuable asset to the team.
“I believe Garrett has scored in every junior varsity game he’s played in this season — then he followed that up by taking to the field last Friday night and scoring a touchdown in the varsity game,” Hastings said.
“When you have a young player like him that brings a physical, as well as an inspirational, component to a team, the value of it just can’t be measured. We’re proud to have a young man of his character with us.”