It was only fitting that Martin holds the rare distinction of being an Irish two-time captain. After all, he is the longest tenured starter in the history of Notre Dame football, having 52 games of coming out on the field with the first unit. Save for two appearances at right tackle vs. Western Michigan and Pittsburgh during his freshman year, he has been the cornerstone of the front wall at the demanding left tackle position throughout his storied career.
Martin has been “front and center” as the Irish came out of their rebuilding program and their recent success is a direct link to the Bishop Chatard High School recruit arriving on campus. In each of his four seasons in the lineup, Notre Dame won a minimum of eight games. During his time as a starter, they recorded a record of 37-15 (71.15 winning percentage).
Martin is the consummate team player and one that takes greater pride in his leadership ability than wondering if he would receive recognition from the media. Yet, the postseason honors have come his way and for good reason – his proven track record as a winner on the field and a leader in the locker room. It is that leadership role that he wears like a true badge of courage.
To appreciate what Martin has become to the Notre Dame program and to the players that surround him is to understand the heavy load he carried as a two-year captain. While he does shun the limelight, the media, the professional scouts, the opponents, the coaches and teammates alike recognize that his success on the field leads to victory. The two-time All- American, four-time team Guardian of the Year, the two-time ESPN.com All-Bowl Team selection, are just some of the recent honors bestowed upon him.
With all of those accolades, it was fitting how Martin closed out his career, being named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The last time any offensive lineman was named an MVP in a bowl game was Penn State center Jay Huffman, who was the award recipient in the 1959 Liberty Bowl, when the Nittany Lions beat Alabama, 7-0.
That prestigious and rare MVP honor tells you the extent that Martin's playing ability has evolved over the years, but the one “trophy” he is most proud of is the “C” on the side of his jersey, for being captain of the team is the ultimate compliment, at least where Martin is concerned.
What separates Martin from most youngsters is the maturity and work ethic he displays. Scouts liken his presence to that of Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, indeed high praise. Even when the season has yet to begin, Martin takes the captaincy role into his everyday life.
Martin is always looking for a way that he could help his team. Preparing for his senior season last summer, he felt that he needed to be cutting out sweets and soda from his diet. This would cost him 10-15 pounds. But this would make him a more versatile threat, as he could start as a two-way lineman and soak up more knowledge of a game that, by most standards, he seemingly already had mastered.
This was also in fifth or sixth grade, when Martin was hoping to slide under the weight limit for defensive players at St. Matthew in Indianapolis. "I said, 'Hey, let your body do what it needs to do,' " his father, Keith Martin, recalled. "He felt like that was important to him and ultimately the team's success. He took that on himself and said, 'Hey this is what I need to do.' "
Roughly a dozen years have gone by since Martin first embraced the game of football, and all that has happened since is 52 consecutive starts for Notre Dame, where he served as only the 18th two-time captain in program history. He shoved away NFL riches and bypassed the 2013 draft as an early entry to return to a unit that named him its top performer for three years running prior to his final campaign.
For the past four seasons, Martin lined up each day next to his best friend, Chris Watt, and his younger brother, Nick Martin, the Irish's new starting center. In 2013, the Irish enjoyed a 9-4 campaign, thanks to Martin heading up a deeper, more mature front wall group -- one that benefited from countless hours of overtime spent chaperoning rookies to and from classes and workouts this summer, an initiative head coach Brian Kelly described by saying: "Doesn't happen. That just does not happen."
Martin is always looking for a way that he could help his team, and once found, will simply go about doing just that. "The best leader I've ever been around is Olin Kreutz from the Bears, and Zack's in that category," said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, formerly of the NFL, referencing the six-time Pro Bowler. "Zack's in that conversation. Zack brings it every day."
Before the 2013 season, Martin and Watt talked about getting the five-man freshman class of linemen more involved. The fifth-year seniors thought back to their initial semesters on campus, wishing that they could have had the ice broken for them sooner. So following 3:30 p.m. workouts each day, Martin and the rest of the regulars made it a point to stick around the football complex for upward of 90 minutes, waiting to integrate the newcomers trickling in for their 5 p.m. weight-lifting sessions.
The accelerated learning curve paid huge dividends, as several youngsters, like Steve Elmer and redshirt freshman Ronnie Stanley have had to step up and join the first team when injuries hit the offensive line. Elmer replaced Watt next to Martin at left guard and Stanley emerged as the bookend tackle on the right side. Following the “lead” of Martin, that unit did an outstanding job, as the eight sacks allowed by that unit ranked as the second fewest total in the nation in 2013.
"Making them as prepared as possible," Martin said. "They're talented, and we know that they're going to have an opportunity to help us, if not this year, then they're going to be the guys in the future. So anything we can help when coach Hiestand can't be there, we'll do." And the senior leaves behind two players in Elmer and Stanley that were taught the “Fighting Irish” way by their captain.
After not playing during his first season at Notre Dame in 2009, Martin was one of four offensive linemen among a total of 11 total Irish players to start all thirteen games in 2010. Despite playing on a line that featured veteran center Braxton Cave, guards Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson, it was Martin who received the Guardian of the Year Award, given annually to the team's top offensive lineman. Martin would capture that honor a record four times before concluding his Notre Dame career.
As a sophomore, Martin's drive blocking skills helped Irish ball carriers average 4.8 yards per tote, as a unit, the best average by a Notre Dame team since 1996. The following year, the junior left tackle received All-American honors, leading a team that just missed out on winning the national title and going undefeated when Alabama handed them their only loss for the 2012 campaign.
Despite the team playing “musical chairs” with their auditions at quarterback and two starters missing on the offensive
line, along with struggles by a slew of running backs to establish a true number-one ball carrier, Martin had his finest season in 2013 and was a consensus All-American. He faced seven defensive ends that would go on to receive national honors, but combined, they managed no sacks and just five stops of runners behind the line of scrimmage when matching up vs. the left tackle.
Martin would conclude his college career by playing in the 2014 Senior Bowl. There was some debate whether he would play guard or tackle in the NFL, but during the week-long practices in Mobile, he emerged as the best performer among all offensive linemen in attendance. He was very effective shuffling his feet to square, punch and mirror some of college's premier pass rushers.
While Martin did line up at both guard and tackle, no matter where he played, scouts saw an athlete who routinely stymied the competition with quickness, power and overall technique. He also showed very good ability at keeping his feet underneath him while keeping his pad level low to handle both speed and power.
Martin holds the school career-record by starting 52 consecutive games at Notre Dame...Save for two appearances vs. Pittsburgh and Western Michigan at right tackle in 2010, all of his starting assignments were at left tackle...Became the first player in school annals to win Guardian of the Year honors (team's top offensive lineman) four times...For his career, Martin delivered 47 touchdown-resulting blocks and 416 key blocks/knockdowns.
The two-time team captain, just the 18 player in school history to be bestowed that honor, Martin garnered All-American first-team recognition from The NFL Draft Report, adding second-team accolades from the Walter Camp Football Foundation and third-team from College Sports Madness...Was selected to ESPN's All-Bowl Team for the second consecutive year...When he received Most Valuable Player honors for his performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, he became the first offensive lineman to earn bowl MVP honors since center Jay Huffman of Penn State vs. Alabama in the 1959 Liberty Bowl... Started all 13 games at the demanding left tackle position...Despite constantly facing the opponents' top pass rushers, he did not allow any sacks while leading a young front wall that had four new starters, yet ranked second in the nation for fewest sacks allowed (eight)...Delivered 119 knockdowns and fourteen touchdown-resulting
blocks for an offense that amassed 5,276 yards, an average of 405.85 yards per game...In seven of his contests, Martin faced the challenge from All-American defensive end candidates Kyle Van Noy (Brigham Young), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Leonard Williams (Southern California), Frank Clark (Michigan), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Darius Hamilton (Rutgers) and Charles Tapper (Oklahoma), who would combined for 47.0 sacks and 101 stops behind the line of scrimmage during 2013. Combined, they managed no sacks and just five tackles-for-loss matching up vs. Martin...No team in the nation has allowed fewer sacks and attempted more passes than Notre Dame (eight sacks on 429 pass attempts) this season...In 2012, Notre Dame allowed more than twice as many sacks (18) on 41 fewer passing attempts (388)...Helped the Irish run the ball for a season-high 235 yards while not allowing a sack on 28 passing attempts in the victory over Brigham Young...Michigan State entered the game vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 21) ranked 14th in the FBS in sacks, with an average of 3.0 per game, but the Irish did not allow a single sack in 34 pass attempts vs. the Spartans...Arizona State and Stanford both ranked tied for seventh in the FBS in sacks per game (3.08) yet the duo managed a combined one sack vs. the Irish...Martin was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl.
Martin received second-team All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report and Walter Camp, in addition to being named Guardian of the Year for the third consecutive season...A member of ESPN's All-Bowl Team, the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy watch list choice started all thirteen games at left tackle, serving as team captain...Produced 108 key blocks/knockdowns and 13 touchdown-resulting blocks...Often called blocking assignments for an offensive line that, allowing 18 sacks for losses totaling 106 yards, with the junior tackle delivering 12 touchdown- resulting blocks while also making 80 knockdowns...The offense responded to having their senior leader for the full season, as the Irish averaged 412.15 yards per game, including an average of 189.38 yards from their running corps...The ground game's average of 4.87 yards per carry was the highest by a Notre Dame team since 1996 (5.2)...The team would gain at least 200 yards on the ground in seven times, the most by one team since the 1996 season produced nine such performances...The Irish rushed for more yards in their last nine games combined than 51 FBS teams did in their entire 2012 seasons...Was part of four sets of brothers on the team, as his younger brother, Nick, was a reserve center.
Martin garnered All-Major Independent first-team and All-American honorable mention from The NFL Draft Report...Named the team's Guardian of the Year, the sophomore started all 13 games at left tackle, coming up with 11 touchdown-resulting blocks and 103 key blocks/knockdowns...Became the first Irish blocker to post at least one hundred knockdowns in a season since guard Tim Grunhard in 1990...Allowed just one sack on 473 pass plays...The front wall yielded seventeen sacks for the year and the Irish totaled 5,369 yards, scoring twenty-five times on the ground.
The Freshman All-American was one of just eleven players to start all thirteen games, joining fellow line mates center Braxston Cave, offensive guard Chris Stewart and offensive guard Trevor Robinson as the only players on the offensive side of the ball to accomplish that feat...Won the Guardian of the Year Award from the Guardian Life Insurance Company (a sponsor of Irish football on IMG College radio broadcasts) as the top Notre Dame offensive lineman...Made his first career start vs. Purdue at left tackle, manning that position in 11 contests while starting at right tackle vs. Pittsburgh and Western Michigan)...Was the first freshman to serve as game captain, earning that honor vs. Navy...Named Jimmy Rogers, Jr. Most Valuable Lineman following the victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl...The offense averaged 253.08 in sacks allowed, as opponents got to Irish quarterbacks an average of 1.54 times per game (20 for minus 112 yards)...Notre Dame had not allowed fewer sacks per game since 1998 when the Irish allowed only nine sacks in 11 games or 0.82 per game...Totaled 831 snaps on offense, the most of any Irish offense lineman and second-most of any Notre Dame player, as he posted nine touchdown-resulting blocks and 86 knockdowns.
Martin did not see game action for Irish, red-shirting while playing on the scout team.
5.22 in the 40-yard dash...1.89 10-yard dash...2.97 20-yard dash...4.59 20-yard shuttle...
7.65 three-cone drill...28-inch vertical jump...8'-10” broad jump...Bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times...32 7/8-inch arm length...9 1â„2-inch hands...77 1â„2-inch wingspan.
Martin attended Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis, Ind.) High School, playing football for head coach Vince Lorenzano...Selected to play in 2009 Under Armour All-American game in Orlando, Martin was named to the “Best in Midwest” team by the Detroit Free Press as the fifth-best player and second-best offensive lineman (behind future classmate Chris Watt) in the Midwest...Ranked as 107th-best prospect by Sports Illustrated and 110th in the nation and tenth-best among offensive tackles according to ESPN...Named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association Top 50 All-
State team as an offensive lineman in his senior year and was selected first-team all-state in 2008 by the Indianapolis Star and Associated Press...Also named to the Indianapolis Star's 2008 Super Team after he tallied 114 pancake blocks
during his senior campaign...Was a first-team all-state selection as senior and junior, and named to the Bloomington Herald Times Junior All-State team his sophomore campaign...Selected to the Bloomington Herald Times Top 33 team as a junior and senior and was chosen as Super Prep's All-American and 20th-best offensive lineman in 2008... Super Prep ranked him as the 16th-best player in the Midwest...Ranked as second-best prospect in the Rivals.com Indiana postseason rankings...Was a member of the Indiana Class 3A State Championship team as a sophomore with a 12-3 record...Helped lead his high school team to a 14-1 record and second consecutive Indiana Class 3A state championship as a junior in 2007...Started both ways as sophomore along the offensive and defensive lines, as he recorded 73 tackles, including five tackles for loss as a defensive tackle during his sophomore season in 2006.
Martin graduated on May 19th, 2013 with a degree in management entrepreneurship from the Mendoza College of Business...Presently enrolled as an unclassified graduate student...Younger brother, Nick, is a team-mate and offensive center at Notre Dame... Father, Keith, played football at Kentucky and was 1982 Academic All-Southeastern Conference pick as team's top defensive tackle while also earning NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship in 1983...Son of Pam and Keith Martin...Born Zachary Edward Martin on 11/20/90...Resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.