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Martin Took The Long Road To The NFL

Posted Jul 16, 2013

Dolphins defensive tackle went from his native Jamaica to Toronto, Canada, and then to San Diego for the start of his NFL career.



Vaughn Martin admits he’s allowed himself to reflect on his remarkable journey more often since he became a member of the Miami Dolphins. And yet he also says he still doesn’t do it as often as he probably should.

After all, the big defensive tackle arrived in Miami after his road took him from his native Jamaica to Toronto, Canada, and then to San Diego for the start of his NFL career.

It’s a career that’s still on the rise, and that’s the biggest reason Martin doesn’t stop and recollect more often.

I’ve done it more since I’ve been down here,” Martin said. “I see Jamaicans fresh off the boat and this and this … yeah, when you think about it, you’re proud, but there’s so much more to go still.”

Martin’s journey moved to Miami this spring when he signed with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent following four seasons with the Chargers. He comes to Miami as an emerging player who still has a lot of room for improvement but one who’s already grown a tremendous amount from his first days in the NFL.

The Dolphins have had tremendous success in recent years with players who spent time in Canada, with Cameron Wake and Marcus Thigpen quickly coming to mind, but Martin is a different case.

Wake and Thigpen went to Canada to play in the CFL after playing college football in the U.S.; Martin played his college football in Canada — with its rules of three downs and 12 players on the field.

When Martin first got to the NFL after being a fourth-round pick of the Chargers in 2009, he was about as raw a prospect as you could get.

“When I first came in, I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know,” said Martin, who played hockey in Canada before taking up football and eventually hanging up his ice skates. “That curve was exponential. It was every single day, every week, whatever. I was fortunate, I worked hard enough, I started the last two years, but I still feel like I have a way to go.

“Last year didn’t go as well as I wanted it to go, but this year will. And I’m just excited to be here.”

That is pretty clear.

Martin wasn’t lacking for offers as a free agent this spring. In addition to the Dolphins, San Diego wanted to re-sign him and the Seahawks also were interested. In fact, Martin got off a plane headed for Seattle to sign with Miami.

“There’s 32 franchises; every one has their own personality,” Martin said. “ But when I got here, I was familiar with some of the guys here. I trained with Mike Pouncey up in Boca a few weeks before I was even contacted by the Dolphins. And just after coming here and meeting with the coaches, the strength coaches, the program, just walking around the building … first of all, you want to win. This game is too hard to not want to win. I really felt that’s where they were going. Hard-working team. It basically suited my personality.

“And as a bonus, I have family down here in South Florida. It’s a nice play to be. So it was a combination of things. It was the perfect storm. And I really feel ... yeah, I’m really happy to be here.”

Martin, whose father, three brothers, two sisters, aunts and uncles live in Pembroke Pines, was looking at playing in a different defense when he joined the Dolphins.

He was a defensive end in the Chargers’ 3-4 system the last four years, but now has been lining up at defensive tackle in the Dolphins’ 4-3.

“I knew it was going to be different,” Martin said. “I knew there were going to be some challenges just because it’s going to be different. Anytime you’ve got to learn in this game, it’s already fast enough, there’s going to be some difficulties and things to adjust to. But I was actually excited about it. I felt when I first came out, with my body type, I was more suited to a 3-4. Over the last couple of years, my body type is maybe more suitable for a 4-3. So I was excited.”

Martin’s addition will give the Dolphins even more depth at a position that already boasted plenty of it with former Pro Bowl selections Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. In addition, 2010 first-round pick Jared Odrick lined up at defensive tackle in the offseason practices open to the media.

While there’s a long way to go before Martin plays his first game for the Dolphins, he’s already impressed Head Coach Joe Philbin with his attitude.

“I like his energy and his enthusiasm,” Philbin said. “He’s a guy that comes into the building with a positive attitude. It looks like he likes to play the game. To us, those are underrated qualities sometimes, believe it or not. He has a lot of physical tools and athleticism, but I like his attitude, I like the way he’s approached his job when he comes into the building at this early stage of the game.”

Martin, who turned 27 on April 18, recorded three sacks in his four seasons in San Diego, but his main responsibility was more that of a run stopper.

Martin says it’s too early to talk about his role. Besides, he’s enjoying himself too much to worry about it.

“It’s going to define itself,” Martin said. “I started in San Diego the last couple of years. It means I know how to play the game. All I want to do is be the best I can be, and whatever that is is going to be whatever it is. But it’s going to be 100 percent effort. There’s a role for me here. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could help this team win. At the end of the day, that’s all it’s about.”
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