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Carolina Panthers

Versatility is Martin's game


CHARLOTTE - Charly Martin is a playmaker at heart.

In college, Martin made plays that were hard to miss, racking up remarkable numbers as a Division II wide receiver.

In the NFL, he makes plays that are easy to miss, rarely making a mark on the stat sheet but making an important impression on the game nonetheless.

Martin, who averaged more than 1,000 receiving yards per season in college, has one NFL catch for 6 yards, yet he's still in the NFL thanks in large part to his playmaking ability on special teams.

"We all know how this game works, how this business works. The more you can do, the bigger asset you are to the team," Martin said. "Whenever your number is called – on kickoff, kick return or offense – it's about knowing what to do, being in the right place and ultimately making a play."

Martin, battling for a roster spot as the preseason begins to wind down, started Friday's preseason game at the Miami Dolphins with an impressive tackle on the opening kickoff. He did the same thing on a first-quarter kickoff in the preseason opener against the New York Giants, and in the fourth quarter he caught two passes before delivering an open-field block that sprung rookie receiver Kealoha Pilares for the game-clinching touchdown.

"It's all a part of knowing your role on the team," special teams coach Brian Murphy said. "Charly exemplifies what you're looking for in a special teams core guy. He's smart, and he's a tough guy. He knows what it takes to be successful, and he's a leader by example.

"There are 53 guys on the roster, and everyone has a role, and it's a critical role. It's not to be taken lightly. You have to use all parts, and you have to be flexible. Charly gives you that flexibility."

Martin was always willing to make sacrifices in pursuit of his NFL dream. The native of Walla Walla, Wash., wanted to play college football at Washington State, but when the Cougars offered him only an opportunity to walk on, he didn't waver in his belief that he could play in the pros.

He made the difficult decision to leave home and attend West Texas A&M, a Division II program with a free-wheeling approach on offense where the coaching staff wanted to see Martin run rather than walk on.

"I knew it was a place where I could play," Martin said. "I wanted to play, and I had dreams and aspirations for the next level. You have to get on the field and produce, and it was an offensive system and a place where I felt welcomed and was excited."

Martin's senior season in 2008 was something special, with 95 receptions for 1,867 yards and 22 touchdowns. Just as important, however, was his decision to play on every special teams unit he could find a spot.

"I knew my senior year that that would be something I'd have to do on the NFL level, so I begged and tried to get on as many as they would let me," Martin said.

He wasn't drafted out of college, but the San Diego Chargers brought him in as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009. He made it to the final round of roster cuts before being waived but soon was signed to the Panthers' practice squad.


He ended up playing in seven games for the Panthers in 2009, then he missed all but one game in 2010 with a hamstring injury. This year, he was been reunited this season with former Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and former Chargers tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski.

"It definitely has helped, being familiar with Rivera and Chud and it being the same system," Martin said. "Obviously I had been over here a couple of years running our system, but it wasn't a foreign language when I looked at it for the first time.

"It's a fun, explosive offense to play in."

Despite his familiarity with the offense and his acumen in special teams, Martin is in a battle for a roster spot with a deep pool of receivers.

Martin, however, isn't losing sleep over what might happen. He's too busy living his dream.

"I come out every day and do what they ask of me, and I give it my all. At the end of the day, that's all I can control and all I can worry about," he said. "I was taught and raised to believe in myself. There are going to be a lot of naysayers, a lot of people telling you different stuff, but that's OK as long as you believe in yourself and know what you can accomplish.

"Football is my passion. From the day I was born, I had the dream of playing in the NFL. That's what I'm doing, and I'm loving every minute of it."

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