Nov. 5, 2008
By Jessica Taylor, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The word `home' can take on a number of different meanings. It all depends on whom you're asking; for some, it is the house they grew up in, and for some the meaning includes the people they have been around their entire lives. For Chicago native Roland Martin, home for the past five years has been right here at Michigan State University.
As right guard on the offensive line, Martin faced a big decision coming out of high school regarding which school he would choose to play football for. Lucky for Spartan fans, the choice was clear - it had to be MSU.
"It just felt like home," Martin said, who was ranked among the nation's top 30 prospects out of high school. "I didn't look at the record or the things they had. It was about where I fit in and where I felt I could grow as a person and a player. I felt like I could get to a certain point I wanted to be at in my life here."
Despite being one of the program's highest profile recruits in recent years, Martin managed to stay humble and worked hard his first two seasons before becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore - not an easy feat for an offensive lineman. The senior, now is in fifth year with the program, has started 31 games at right guard for the Spartans heading into this afternoon's contest.
"It was a great experience and I enjoyed it, but I didn't look at it as that big of a deal," said Martin, attempting to down play his successful beginnings. "There were other people that were stronger, bigger and that had more experience."
Perhaps there were others that were all of those things, but instead of being intimidated or discouraged by them, Martin took advantage of their talents to help advance his own.
"There were a lot of guys I looked up to, other guys that were like big brothers to me," said Martin, who has lined up with current NFL players Chris Morris and Kyle Cook, among others, during his career. "I looked up to them and looked to them for answers and they helped me along the way - on and off the field."
Also along the way, Martin and fellow offensive lineman and classmate, Jesse Miller, developed a type of friendship many often only find within a home.
"Jesse's been there since day one with me and it would be weird if he wasn't standing next to me," Martin said of Miller, who is the starting right tackle. "I could always look to my right and see the same guy giving me pointers and it feels good to have someone with you that has been there the whole time."
As Martin reminisced fondly on his years spent in East Lansing and the people who have helped him to accomplish all he has to this day, he can't pinpoint one specific game that he remembers most, but instead, recalls the bigger picture.
"I remember a lot of the big games," said Martin. "Some we won, and some we lost. Sometimes I watch a clip from a game three or four years ago and remember that one play and think `Whoa! I remember that play.' So I have lot of those in my memory bank."
Martin entered this season ranked as one of the top 15 offensive guards in the nation, and he has not disappointed. With Martin and Miller anchoring the right side of the line, they have helped senior running back Javon Ringer become the leading rusher in the Big Ten. Twice named MSU's Lineman of the Week this fall, Martin's solid play is getting noticed, as he was named to Phil Steele's Midseason All-America Third Team.
"I can't say I lived up to everything everyone said, but I can say that I come out every single Saturday and give it everything I have and try to contribute to my team," Martin said. "I want to help my team, help Michigan State, and help this athletic program."
According to Martin, his modest ways are due in great part to you - the Spartan fan who is reading this very article. The fans who paint their faces green and white to show their great pride for this university and the fans that don the colors by wearing MSU apparel. It's the fans that wait in lines for games in the rain and the fans that make sure to tune in from the comfort of their living room that have had a huge impact on Roland Martin.
"The entire Spartan nation that we represent is important to me," Martin said. "I think representing people keeps me humble. I just try to go out there and not let anybody down."
Martin certainly has lived up to the high expectations and has done an exceptional job representing not only Michigan State University, but all of the devoted Spartans as well. He looks to the future not as winding down, but more optimistically, as moving forward. And with moving forward, changes are inevitable and leaving home is merely a part of growing up.
"Leaving here will be by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life," he said. "I've learned something about myself throughout these past few years. This just feels like home."
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 1 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.