Moose Martin Q&A

Jonathan Martin, better known as “Moose,” has entered the national stage as the left tackle for the Stanford Cardinal. An Honorable Mention All Pac-10 selection as a redshirt freshman last year, the 6’6″, 304-pound Martin helped block for Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart, a running back. This year, his main job has been protecting the blindside of another Heisman contender, quarterback Andrew Luck. Big Red’s Alex Leichenger talked to Moose about his football career at Harvard-Westlake and Stanford.

Q: Most important question first: What is the history behind the “Moose” nickname?

 

A: I went to John Thomas Dye for elementary school and my good friend there, who actually went to Harvard-Westlake with me afterwards, just started calling me Moose one day. I don’t really remember exactly how it started. I was already 5’7” in like fifth grade. So it started up and our coach back then, a guy named Coach Cody, he called me Moose one day. And that’s when it kind of became official.”

Q: Has the nickname stuck now that you are at Stanford?

Yeah, everyone here pretty much calls me that. There’s actually a bunch of people here who don’t know my real name.

Q: Do your coaches call you Moose?

Sometimes. Head Coach [Jim] Harbaugh usually just calls me Jon.

Q: How is playing in college different than playing in high school?

A: In high school, you’re working pretty hard in August and in the season, but you’re pretty much off in the winter and the spring.  And I would say in college football that the hardest time of the year is winter and spring ball. So it’s a year-round thing. I probably don’t go home for more than three weeks a year. I’m here pretty much all the time working out.

Q: How much has your game developed in college?

A: I would have to say pretty significantly. I was pretty raw when I came in. I was a decent athlete when I came in, but I was really small, really skinny. [I’ve picked up on] some new techniques that you need to be successful in college football, especially in pass protection.

Q: What person or people have contributed most to your success as a football player?

A: I would have to say the high school coaches. Coach Eumont, Coach Bello. Before them, it was Coach Himmebauch, when I was a sophomore. They just really realize how much work goes into the game, and what it takes to be a good player. Besides that, my dad has been pretty influential, making sure I never give up on the sport.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Stanford career so far?

A: I would say that the back-to-back wins against USC and Oregon last year. Getting Oregon at home first was pretty awesome…then the next game, coming back to home to L.A., playing in front of a bunch of people I know and putting up 55 on the Trojans was pretty awesome.

Q: What type of lessons have you taken from the coaches at Harvard-Westlake and applied in college?

A: I would say just the work ethic. You know, Coach Eumont has a unique style—he’s kind of old-school, and that’s prepared me for what I’m currently dealing with in college with Coach Harbaugh because he’s kind of similar in his coaching…It just strengthened me mentally to be coached by Eumont for two years.

Q: Harvard-Westlake moved back to the Mission League this year after a 7-4 season in the Del Rey League. Do you think moving up is good or bad for the program at this point?

A: I think both leagues, the Del Rey League and the Mission League, are competitive. I think the Mission League is a lot different now, a lot of different teams than when I played in it in my sophomore year. I don’t think it makes that much of a difference what league you’re in—we’re a solid program now.

Q: You made a last-minute choice to go to Stanford after originally committing to UCLA in your senior year of high school. Why did you make the switch, and how pleased are you with your decision looking back on it?

A: Well actually, Stanford was my top choice all throughout high school. But my junior year, one of the coaches actually contacted Coach Bello and said I probably wouldn’t be able to get in academically. Because I was a pretty good student, but nothing special. And it made me think that I’ve got to look somewhere else, so I was planning on taking a couple visits to UCLA, maybe to Virginia, some other places…But once Stanford called me back and said that I could get in…, I was 100 percent committed. I mean, there’s no way that I was going to give up an Ivy League level education and play Pac-10 football at the same time.

Q: Obviously, the education at Stanford is great, but at the time you committed, the football program wasn’t very strong back then. How big of a surprise has it been and did it come as a surprise to you to have the team emerge lately and have had so much success?

A: When I first came in, the year before, it was Harbaugh’s first year, and they had upset USC, which was widely considered one of the greatest upsets of all time. And just talking to Harbaugh and his staff made me realize that the program was going places…It’s definitely been a surprise how good we’ve been the past two years. It’s something that we didn’t expect really. Everyone knew that Toby Gerhart was a great athlete…We knew we were going to have something in Toby. And coming in with [quarterback] Andrew Luck was huge. I didn’t really realize how good he was until I saw him throw the ball. You know, I played against [former Notre Dame and current Carolina Panthers quarterback] Jimmy Clausen in high school, I’ve seen some pretty good quarterbacks. Played against [current Notre Dame starter] Dayne Crist. But, seeing Andrew throw the ball is just something completely different. He’s just so talented. It’s pretty hard to lose football games when you have Andrew Luck at quarterback and Toby Gerhart at running back.

Q: What has it been like to play with guys like Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck?

A: They’re great guys. I’m close to Andrew because he’s in my grade. He lives right down the hall from me; he’s one of my good friends. He’s just the ultimate competitor. And he’s probably also the most humble player on our football team…Toby was quiet, but he was still a major team leader, and he was just such a beast on the field.

Q: You’ve protected Luck’s blindside for the past two seasons as he as blossomed into a star. How big of a role do you think you have played in your quarterback’s success?

A: I don’t know personally about that, being an impact on it. I think collectively, as an [offensive] line we’ve done a pretty good job protecting him, especially this year. We’ve only given up one sack so far [as of Oct. 1]…But at the same time, Luck is just so good at avoiding pressure, especially last year, when I was a little sloppy in my technique.

Q: Do you think that Toby Gerhart deserved to win the Heisman Trophy last year?

A: Absolutely. I don’t think it was even close, to be honest. Just The fact that we didn’t win a couple close games that we probably should have won. Had we been 10-2 and won a BCS game, I think he would have won it. And it would have been a blowout, maybe the biggest blowout in Heisman history. And I think race may have played some role in that, you know, the stigma of being a white running back kind of didn’t go in his favor. But he was far and away the best player in the country last year, I think.

Q: Now that Stanford has established its reputation as very strong in the last couple years, the team probably came into this year with its highest expectations in a long time. How have you and the team responded to this type of pressure?

A: We try not to think about it too much. We approach each game as its own body of work. I’d say that in the offseason, there’s no way that anyone worked harder than we worked. Our conditioning was very difficult, our weight training was very long and very difficult. So we came into the season in pretty good shape, and we were confident in what we could do. We knew we were going to be good this year…It’s not a big shock what we’ve been doing so far. And we’re not satisfied. We still have a lot of work to do. This week and next are huge in allowing us to reach our goal, which is to make the national championship game or the Rose Bowl.

Q: With USC ineligible for the Rose Bowl this year, what do you think your chances are?

A: Every Pac-10 game is tough. A couple have of teams have proven to be better than people gave them credit for before the season, like Arizona, Cal. You know Oregon is the beast of the conference still. We have to unseat them before we can be on top…I do like our chances, but we have to work each game to make sure nothing out of the ordinary happens. 

Q: What are your goals personally for the rest of your career as a football player? Are you planning to work toward the NFL?

A: I want to win a couple Rose Bowls, maybe a national championship in the next couple of years, then I want to try for the NFL, but that’s a long way in the future. Right now I’m just focused on winning the next couple of games, and reaching our team goal of going to the Rose Bowl, which would just be absolutely amazing.