Cameron Martinez explains decision to pick Ohio State, pass on Notre Dame

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame lost Cameron Martinez long before circling back on the Ohio State safety commit.

The two-way player out of Muskegon (Mich.) High told the Tribune that the Irish reignited communication with him too late in the recruiting process to make a difference. He reaffirmed his verbal pledge to the Buckeyes via Twitter on Tuesday.

“I think the thing with (Notre Dame) was the timing,” Martinez said. “That was one of the schools that was a dream of mine, but it’s just the way it didn’t work out. They came in and pitched late. I kind of knew where I already was with my (decision).”

With National Signing Day next Wednesday, Notre Dame looked to add Martinez to its 17-player 2020 recruiting class. The Irish extended him a scholarship offer last May but cooled off after he verbally pledged to the Buckeyes in July.

After OSU co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley departed for Boston College’s head coaching job in December, Martinez delayed making his commitment official during the early signing period.

The Irish hoped to host Martinez for an official visit this weekend. They offered Martinez the choice to play wide receiver or safety. A majority of the 21 Power Five schools to offer Martinez projected him at receiver, while others preferred safety. Only a few of those schools, including Ohio State, allowed him to choose his preference.

“I was thinking about taking that official up there this weekend,” Martinez said, “but I guess that wasn’t where my heart was at. With any other school, I just wanted to settle down and they just kind of came into the picture late, too. I told them no respectfully because I knew where I was going.”

Martinez said Northwestern, one of the first Power Five programs to offer him a scholarship in 2018, finished second in his recruitment. The Wildcats received his first official visit on May 17-19. The Irish were working from behind in recent weeks.

Northwestern assistants Dennis Springer and Tim McGarigle visited Martinez's home last Thursday. Martinez flirted with scheduling another in-home visit — this time with head coach Pat Fitzgerald — before backing off and announcing his decision.

The Irish coaching staff never stepped inside Martinez’s house, but special teams coordinator Brian Polian trekked to his Jan. 17 basketball game at Reeths-Puffer High in Muskegon. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day also attended that game.

“They were a school that was always kind of in the loop even before I committed to Ohio State,” Martinez said of Northwestern. “They were one of the first schools to offer me. I always had a connection with them. When they came back, I was all ears with them again.”

Ohio State’s new defensive coordinator, Kerry Coombs, met with Martinez last Wednesday after his hiring became official. Coombs landed Michigan’s No. 11 all-time leading rusher (6,343 career rushing yards) and Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Martinez. He claimed all-state honors in all four seasons as a quarterback and safety, posting a 48-4 record.

247Sports and Rivals considered Martinez to have a cloudy position projection, listing him as a four-star athlete. The former ranks Martinez as its No. 16 athlete and No. 310 overall player, while the latter pegs him No. 4 at the position and outside the Top 250.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Martinez wanted to familiarize himself with Coombs before pushing his recruitment forward and choosing to play safety for the Buckeyes.

“Getting to process everything again gave me a chance to make sure I was truly making the right decision,” Martinez said. “After meeting him and meeting other schools, talking with other coaches, I thought this process through and just felt more comfortable and at peace with Ohio State.

"That’s where my heart was in. I wanted to make my decision now and not wait. Just get it over with.

“His track record and getting to know him as a person too. I get a good vibe from people, and he’s one I had a good connection with. It kind of happened fast. Now we are onto the next step.”

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Muskegon (Mich.) High's Cameron Martinez reaffirmed his commitment to Ohio State on Tuesday.