Plenty to smile about for Nick Martin at Notre Dame Pro Day

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Thursday marked the beginning of the end of pre-draft process for Nick Martin.

At Notre Dame’s Pro Day, the 6-foot-4, 298-pound offensive linemen was poked and prodded for one of the last times before next month’s NFL Draft. Martin joked after the workout that he was measured for probably the 17th time since the start of the year.

That’s the result of Martin taking part in the Senior Bowl in January, the NFL Combine in February and meeting with various teams along the way. Throw in time to train on his own and Martin’s been a busy man.

Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to look far for advice on how to handle the process. His older brother, Zack, who was in attendance Thursday, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round in 2014.

“He’s there for me,” Nick Martin said. “He has stuff that he’ll tell me. If I have questions, he’s the best person to go to. He’s been through it. At the end of the day, his biggest advice is you have to go out and perform and just do what you do. You don’t have to do anything extra.”

The workouts for NFL scouts are old hat for Martin. He said the drills mirror the ones Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has had him doing for years.

“It’s what we do every day,” Martin said. “It’s nothing new. Drive block. Pass sets. It was good.”

Martin skipped the testing portion of Pro Day and let his NFL Combine numbers, which included a 5.22-second 40-yard dash and 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, remain his standard.

As Martin fielded questions from reporters Thursday, the man who has to play with a mean streak on the offensive line couldn’t wipe a smile off his face. Being back on campus with his teammates and fellow offensive linemen was important to Martin.

“This is a very special university,” he said. “It means a lot to all of us who have been here. It’s kind of the last workout with Ronnie (Stanley) and Matt (Hegarty) and everyone.”

Martin, who started at center and guard during his Notre Dame career, has spent a lot of time selling himself as a versatile offensive lineman to NFL personnel. Teams typically dress only seven offensive linemen for games. The more positions Martin can play, the more likely he is to be among those seven linemen.

Martin played center, where he is rated by many draft analysts as one of the top players at the position, for most of his Notre Dame career. But in 2014, Martin switched to guard when Hiestand shuffled a struggling offensive line. The move to guard took some pressure off of Martin while he dealt with torn thumb ligaments in his snapping hand and the lingering effects of knee surgery the previous year.

Martin returned to center in 2015 and is starting to see how playing both positions could benefit him in the future.

“Not everyone can snap. Not everyone can do both,” Martin said. “It helps a lot.”

The only specifics Martin seems to care about in the draft process involve blocking. The rest will sort itself out.

He wasn’t taking note of which NFL scouts were watching him Thursday.

“I’m just out there doing drills, playing football,” Martin said. “It’s nice because once that happens, you just kind of lock in because that’s what you usually do. It’s just like a game. You don’t really hear the crowd. You kind of ignore everything else and focus on what’s at hand.”

He doesn’t have expectations on which round he’ll be selected. 

“Get a job. Land on a team really. In my eyes, that is success,” said Martin, who is projected as a middle-rounds prospect. “Then you go from there. Hopefully someone will take me. After that, it’s all about the work we put in.”

Only finding out what his future address will be brings Martin a little bit of anxiety.

“At this point, the biggest thing is what city you have to move to,” Martin said. “You don’t choose. They choose you and then you move there. And then it all starts. I’m very excited for it and a little bit anxious to see where we land.”

Good luck trying to stop Martin from smiling until then. On draft day, it might get even wider. After all, he’s been working a long time for this.

“We get to play football for our job and get paid to play football,” Martin said. “It’s a dream come true for all of us. It’s a pretty special thing.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame center Nick Martin waits for Fiesta Bowl press conferences to begin on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Phoenix, Ariz. (Tribune photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)