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December 17, 2010MORE: MacLain's stage | Shrine Bowl matchup | All-star coverage
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Pat Martin jammed his neck during practice this week while making a tackle and the four-star Tennessee commit could have packed it in and watched Saturday's Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas from the sidelines.
Anyone who thinks Martin would consider not playing does not know the Greenville (S.C.) J.L. Mann safety. He is defined by strength and toughness.
"I'm playing on Saturday," Martin said. "I'm fine. I'm looking forward to Saturday so I can ball."
Martin injured his neck - X-rays confirmed it was only a bad bruise and nothing more serious - when he ran into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Shell after tackling running back Shon Carson in practice.
"(Shell) is really big so I hurt my head," Martin said.
Taking all necessary precautions, Martin was examined and said he was cleared to play in the Shrine Bowl, welcome news since the local prospect feels he might have been slighted a little bit during the recruiting process.
In a game that pits the best from North Carolina against those from South Carolina, this is a perfect time for Martin to show he should be even more respected.
Clemson did not offer. South Carolina and North Carolina recruited him but Martin felt most comfortable at Tennessee. He committed to the Volunteers in mid-August and stuck with them despite a shaky 6-6 season.
Martin hoped a coaching staff would see what he sees in himself - a talented but undervalued prospect with tons of potential either at safety or possibly outside linebacker, someone who can make plays and be a team leader.
Tennessee's staff saw it and that's one big reason why the Volunteers won out for his services.
"For example, Clemson didn't offer me a scholarship," Martin said. "Some people probably don't see my game or whatever."
What Martin, a 5-foot-11, 196-pounder who's rated No. 16 at safety and No. 244 nationally by Rivals.com, also liked about Tennessee is its youthful and energetic coaching staff.
Martin especially hit it off with Tennessee defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, who recently turned 37 years old. Head coach Derek Dooley is only 41.
"I just felt really comfortable down there," Martin said. "It felt like I was at home at Tennessee. They kind of run the same defense as we have at J.L. Mann where they blitz a lot and all their coaches are young.
"I don't want to play for no old defensive coordinator. I want someone who is young and knows what I'm going through."
Someone, like Martin, who's out to prove himself.
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