After rushing for over 1,300 yards as a Fr. at Hopatcong HS, Martinek bested himself by exceeding 1,700 yards during his second season. After running for in excess of 2,500 yards as a Jr. Martinek has now reached 5,520 yards during his 3-year tenure at the northern NJ school. All eyes will be on the Garden State standout in '06, a likely All-State performer once again this year, as he tries to become New Jersey's all-time career rusher. Martinek's journey, and that of Hopatcong HS, begins versus Pope John in less than 1 week.
A wonderfully pleasant individual to be around, one wouldn't have any idea that this young man is already one of NJ's most prolific rushers. You may mention it to him, try to draw out his feelings on the matter, but his humble nature inevitably steers the conversation away from the subject. Such is the character of Joe Martinek, Rutgers' latest pledge.
SOR recently carried out an extensive Q & A session with Joe, attempting to bring to Rutgers and NJ HS football fans a better glimpse of Rutgers' newest Loyal Son.
SOR: Can you take us back to Sep. 1st of last year, when Rutgers first offered .. was the offer surprising/expected? Take us through that day.
JM: They sent a letter to my coach in June saying they were going to offer on the first available day and that felt awesome. Knowing that I had the chance to play at the next level, for a D1 school, it was a dream come true.
SOR: Because of the very early offer from your state school, did you find yourself keeping a closer eye on their season? What were your impressions of the Scarlet Knights as the season went along?
JM: Of course, once they offered I wanted to find out the most I could about them and see how the coaching staff and players play on and off the field.
SOR: If you had to state the Top 3 most important reasons for selecting Rutgers, what would they be?
JM: It's close to home, they have a great coaching staff, and they are on the uprising.
SOR: Now that you are a Scarlet Knight, do you see yourself trying recruit others to Rutgers? Anybody in particular?
JM: I am trying to encourage my friends and whoever is looking forward to college because what I have seen and know about Rutgers alot of people might not, and might look past it. I can give them a pretty good idea what to expect from them.
SOR: You rushed for over 2,500 yards last year, as a Junior, but you were also all over the field defensively, racking up 43 solo tackles, recording a bunch of sacks, blocked punts, everything it seemed. Considering that you excel on offense as much as you do on defense, where would you say that your strength as a football player lies?
JM: My strengths on the football field are my speed, power, agility and how I think on the field. With all that, I feel I could play at any position and it would all be the same. I would work my hardest at whatever I am doing and practice till I have it perfect.
SOR: Although you will be entering your Senior season, you are still somewhat young for a HS Sr - how old are you? Are you still growing?
JM: What people do not realize is that during my freshman year, rushing for 1309 yards, I was only 14 years old. I am in the middle towards the younger side of my grade. I feel my potential for growing is nowhere close to its peak yet.
SOR: One of the main things that I liked about you when I saw you was that you ran well and changed directions well. This puts you in the mold of an 'athlete', where you don't necessarily fit 1 position, but you can play a number of different positions (FS, RB, STs, etc.). Do you have any preference on where you would like to play?
JM: Anywhere I can get on the field early and help my team win and start the Joe Martinek legacy at the next level.
SOR: Your first game of the season is at home on 9/8 versus Pope John (3:45PM). Pope John has one of the more elusive players in the state in speedster Jeremy Tucker. What is your impression of Tucker and his team?
JM: Jeremy and I are good friends and I have the most respect for him and his family. Pope John knows how to play in the big games, they are coached that way by very knowledgable coaches.
SOR: Since you have a game on 9/8 can fans expect to see you at Rutgers Stadium for the Scarlet Knight home opener (vs Illinois) on the 9th?
JM: I will be at every game I can be at, so that will be the first time I will enter the stadium as a Knight.
SOR: Is the town of Hopatcong rabid about its football? Some expect at least another 1K fans every Saturday for an RU game just because of you. Tell us a little bit about Hopatcong football fans.
JM: When we were not winning, there would only be a couple hundred there. But now that people are excited about this season after seeing what we did last year, we have thousands of people at our games, and I think it is a pretty good bet a majority of them will make the 45 minute drive to watch me play on Saturdays.
SOR: While at Rutgers, what can Scarlet Knight fans expect from Joe Martinek?
JM: A hard working kid who will be a role model on and off the field.
Matei may be reached at email@example.com