Port Arthur’s Kam Martin looks to lead running back pack at Auburn
Published 12:30 pm Monday, August 19, 2019
A man of faith, Kam Martin often tweets notes of inspiration. “In due time — Patience is the key to success” is one of them.
“Been laser focused” is more about his vision going into senior year at Auburn.
“Just a small kid from Port Arthur, Texas, having the opportunity to come to Auburn, Alabama,” the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Martin describes himself, asked about his motivation behind the tweets. “I signed with Baylor. Auburn made me a man.”
One day in February 2017, Martin sat in front of fellow classmates at the Memorial High School auditorium signing a letter of intent with Baylor. Three months later, a third-party report from a Philadelphia law firm encapsulated its findings of a sexual assault scandal that ultimately led to the firing of coach Art Briles, and Martin was given permission to be released from his letter and immediately become eligible at the Southeastern Conference power that was just three seasons removed from a national championship game against then-Jimbo Fisher led Florida State.
“It just felt like home when I came here,” Martin said Thursday. “I could have had an opportunity to stay in my hometown state. Auburn has made me grow up from Day 1. I feel like that, right there, is a big key.”
Martin has played his first three seasons behind the likes of Kerryon Johnson, Kamryn Pettway and JaTarvious Whitlow at Auburn, yet still managing to break out for four career 100-yard games. His 176 yards in the second half alone against Alabama A&M as a freshman ranks as the fifth-best game for a freshman in Tigers history.
With Johnson, now of the Detroit Lions, and Pettway, a 2018 free agent, moving on to the pros, Auburn has taken on more of a running back-by-committee approach, Martin said.
Martin rushed for single-season career highs in attempts (103) and yards (458) last season while Whitlow, now a redshirt sophomore, led the Tigers’ attack with 787 yards and six touchdowns.
Martin’s averages per attempt have gone down each season, but his averages per game have risen. He pays no attention to any of that.
“I feel like this year, all that is going to go up,” he expresses with confidence.
One thing Martin says hasn’t changed is his style of rushing. At Memorial, Martin combined for more than 3,500 rushing and receiving yards and 44 touchdowns, twice topping the 900-yard rushing mark in a season.
“I’m still the same running back,” Martin said. “I just have to be an all-around running back. High school is a little different.”
So is playing in the SEC.
Pressure is mounting on seventh-year head coach Gus Malzahn to return Auburn to the contender status it reached in 2013. The Tigers won the SEC West in Martin’s second year there after stunning eventual national champion Alabama but lost to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl.
Last year, Auburn went 8-5, but capped off a trying season by beating Purdue 63-14 in the Music City Bowl.
“I played in the SEC championship my sophomore year, so I know how it feels,” Martin said. “This year, we have a chance to be really good. Taking it one game at a time. I feel like we’re well prepared.”
This season for Auburn begins Aug. 31 against Oregon in Arlington, at the same time (6:30 p.m.) Martin’s fellow Memorial Titan Kary Vincent Jr. and LSU hosts Georgia Southern. LSU and Auburn will meet Oct. 26 in Baton Rouge.
And when that game against Alabama comes on Nov. 30, Martin predicts one thing:
“Definitely will beat Alabama this year.”
I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews