Shea Martin arrived at Lindsey Wilson College as a skinny free safety near the bottom of the depth chart. Since then, he’s switched positions, added weight, contributed on a national championship team, and become a starter. He has one more year to add a few more accomplishments.
The Adair County High School product recently decided to take advantage of a free fifth year of eligibility granted to athletes because of the COVID pandemic.
Martin’s journey to becoming a fixture on one of the nation’s top-rated defenses was a long one. Despite earning all-state honorable mention honors as a senior at ACHS, he was not heavily recruited. Early in his college career, he wondered if he’d ever even see the field. That all changed as a sophomore when he made the switch from safety to outside linebacker.
“At first, it was one of those things where I got up there and was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play,’” Martin remembers. “Then I moved from free safety to outside linebacker my sophomore year, and that’s when I knew that I was OK, that I can play at this level. It was, like, let me do what I need to over the summer and I’ll come back in and I’ll be able to play.”
Martin made the position switch with just a few days left in preseason camp, and by the team’s first game, he was second string, an important piece of a stout defense. When Lindsey Wilson won the program’s first-ever championship in 2020, Martin was a valuable off-the-bench option, appearing in 11 contests, including the title game.
“I was a backup for a guy named Michael Leslie,” Martin says. “He was a serious ballplayer. We were all kind of banged up by the end of the season, so it was good to have two of us there without any falloff on the depth chart.”
Last season, which Martin assumed was his last, he started all 12 games for the Blue Raiders.
“I really just want to get out there and play football for another season,” he explains, “because after that last game last year, I was just thinking, ‘I’ll never be able to play football again.’”
While Martin might not have been highly sought-after as a high schooler, that wasn’t the case this time around. With the option of transferring without having to sit a year, other schools came calling. He considered an offer from Southeastern University (Lakeland, Florida) before deciding to stay home for his final season.
“I think a lot of the thought I had about it was that Lindsey gave me an opportunity coming straight out of high school,” Martin says. “I’ve been with them for this long, it’s my hometown, so I just thought, ‘Why would I want to go 14 hours away and not be able to play for my hometown, not have my family in the stands?’ The friendships and the relationships I’ve made up at Lindsey, why would I want to leave all that behind to go to a school where I don’t really know anyone or know anything about?”
With a human services and counseling degree already in hand, Martin will begin graduate school in the fall. He plans to pursue a career as a plumber, hoping to eventually earn his license and work for an engineering firm. In the meantime, he has a few goals left to accomplish in football.
“I’d love to be first team All-Mid-South Conference this year, if not All-American,” he says. “As a team, I just want us to go out there and prove … that just because we lost some people or just because we got a new coach, that doesn’t mean we still aren’t going to be at the top.”