Tommy Martin didn’t know when – or if – he would be called on to play.
The job of a backup punter is, well, even less glamorous than that of the starting punter. While Martin was waiting he kept practicing as if he would play on Saturdays.
“I just tried to prepare like I was the starter just in case my number was called,” Martin said. “I think I’m just preparing the same way.”
Martin and kickoff specialist Parker Grothaus have played in Florida State’s last two games as Logan Tyler is serving an indefinite suspension. With Martin and Grothaus stepping in against ULM and Virginia, there hasn’t been any drop off. And some of the sophomores’ moments have been quite impressive.
FSU coach Willie Taggart smiled when asked about the walk-on specialists and their recent contributions to the Seminoles.
“They have been a good example to what we want out of our guys, the next guys step up and don’t flinch and do your job,” Taggart said. “Those guys have done that. Been very, very proud of them and I think they set an example for our entire football team.”
Special teams have been a consistent bright spot for FSU (1-2). Ricky Aguayo has made 3 of 3 field-goal attempts and all 13 of his extra-point attempts. Martin and Grothaus have also stepped in and been productive.
Against Virginia, Martin had a 59-yard punt in the second quarter that pinned Virginia at its own 7-yard line. That moment was part of memorable night for Martin who was able to play in front of family and friends just a few hours from his hometown of Chesapeake, Va.
“It was cool,” Martin said. “That stadium was crazy. The atmosphere was cool, being back home at UVA was also really fun. But at the moment, the ball came off my foot good and we pinned them down deep.”
The Cavaliers went three-and-out and FSU was able to take over with good field position and score a few plays later on James Blackman’s pass to Gabe Nabers.
Grothaus has averaged 62.2 yards per kickoff, with 7 of 11 kickoffs going for touchbacks.
“I was always preparing for this moment,” Grothaus said. “A lot of hard work in the offseason. So when news came out, I was ready.”
Grothaus admitted he wasn’t sure he would ever get on the field, growing up in the small town of Indian Lake, Ohio.
“It was a dream come true,” Grothaus said. “I never thought I’d be here. No one really gets to do that from where I’m from, a small high school in a small town, so just really cool, good experience.”
Martin and Grothaus took differing paths to get to Tallahassee. Grothaus left Incarnate Word after the coaching staff was dismissed. Martin had offers but opted to go to FSU, his dream school.
And now the dream includes meaningful opportunities to not just contribute but perform in key specialists roles on Saturdays.
“Florida State was always my dream school,” Martin said. “I got an offer kind of late, right before the spring game in 2017. I had a couple other offers but Florida State stood out to me ever since they won the national championship. So it’s always been a dream to come here.”
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