Martin the Maverick: Offensive specialist Russ Martin takes reins at Mesa
Russ Martin believes there wasn’t a better job out there.
The new Colorado Mesa University football coach has been at the Division I level, been a head coach and an offensive coordinator. However, he might never have been more excited than when he was offered the Colorado Mesa job.
“Last Saturday night, when Butch (CMU Athletic Director Butch Miller) called me, and my wife could tell you, I was high-fiving and fist-pumping,” Martin said Tuesday when introduced at a press conference at Brownson Arena. “I was jacked.”
Miller was just as excited.
“When we made all the phone calls to references, the one thing that kept coming up is he’s a great recruiter and a great offensive mind,” Miller said. “The thing that kept ringing true is we can’t have a better person run our program.”
In Martin’s eyes, Colorado Mesa is the best school in the RMAC to be a head coach.
“When I was at Kearney, we were recruiting people out there to what we said was one of the top two communities in the RMAC. We didn’t tell anybody we felt Grand Junction was No. 1.
“I believe this is the best community in the RMAC to recruit. When you look at the facilities, it is tremendous. It’s first-class. When you look at the university and the progress it is making and the student enrollment and the excitement it is making, there are so many positives that were all attractions.
“There was also an attraction as a head coaching position. When you have an opportunity, you’ve got to be excited. I feel honored and blessed. The excitement is unbelievable.”
Martin, 56, is a head coach for the first time since he led Black Hills State (S.D.) from 1996-99. He was an assistant at Southeast Missouri State from 2000-2004. The past eight seasons, he was been calling the offense for Nebraska-Kearney.
He couldn’t help but notice the talent the Mavericks had this past season despite finishing 4-7.
“After we played Mesa last year, we felt they had a chance of being a really good football team,” Martin said. “I know there is talent and ability here. What we have as coaches is a challenge to bring out the best in them and become the best team we can be.”
Martin isn’t planning a roster overhaul, and hopes to retain as many players as possible.
“We don’t want it to be a long rebuilding process,” he said. “We want it to be a fast learning curve. It will be a major challenge for them as far as terminology, but the expectations are extremely high. Not one of us would’ve come to this place if we didn’t believe and truly feel we have an opportunity to do win and do it soon.”
Martin has plenty to do before spring practice.
He’s already behind in recruiting at CMU, but with his recruiting ties to Colorado over the years, he expects to catch up quickly.
“Since the announcement, the number of calls I’ve had from coaches wanting to refer their players here ... I’m excited about that,” he said.
He has 10 days left to contact recruits. The signing period begins Feb. 1 and continues through April 1.
He will have his new defensive coordinator, Todd Auer, helping him, along with Colorado Mesa coaches Miles Kochevar and Phil Johnston.
“It’s going to be a collaborative effort,” Martin said. “We sat down with some of the coaches, looking at the players they’ve contacted here and I’ve contacted and looked at the immediate needs as a team.
“We’ll try to get in quite a few men prior to the signing date. Some won’t get in prior to (the signing day). We’re going to try to get them to delay their decision until they come visit.”
Auer, 46, was Chadron State’s defensive coordinator the past 17 years. He was looking for a new opportunity and was considering other schools.
“I had an opportunity to go to Central Washington, South Dakota Mines and some I-AA opportunities,” Auer said. “Coming with Russ; he’s a great guy. I’ve known him a long time.
“Grand Junction is a great place, a place we should be able to compete for conference championships every year. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
In Auer’s 17 seasons, the Eagles led the RMAC in total defense 11 times, rush defense 10 times and scoring defense nine times.
“One of the kids came and introduced himself and I told him, ‘You better be ready to work,’ ” Auer said. “I guarantee we’ll play hard. We’re going to run like they’ve never run. We’re going to be in the best shape. We’re going to play hard.”
Martin will be finalizing his staff in the next few weeks. His son, Ben, will be in town this weekend to discuss joining the staff. Ben Martin was a volunteer assistant at Chadron State the past five years.
“We will release the others at a later point as we get things finalized,” Martin said. “I believe (Ben) and his wife are coming down this weekend to look around.”
Former Chadron State head coach Bill O’Boyle could be a candidate to join Martin’s staff.
“This is definitely high on my list if the opportunity presents itself,” said O’Boyle, who was at the press conference. O’Boyle was released by Chadron State this fall after leading the Eagles to three consecutive RMAC titles (2006-08).
“That’s why I’m here. Russ and I have talked for the last five, six years about being together on the same staff. We’ll see what happens.”