It is not often that a high school student-athlete gets the opportunity to play two Division I sports in college.
But for Richie Martinez, a senior two-sport student-athlete at Wallkill High School (N.Y.), that is exactly what his reality will look like next fall, as he recently verbally committed to play D1 football and lacrosse at Hampton University, in Hampton, Virginia.
Martinez said he had between 15-20 offers from several D1, D2 and D3 schools to play either sport. But it is his fervent desire to suit up for both athletic pursuits that made choosing the Pirates a no-brainer.
“I don’t think it was hard to make a choice,” the soon-to-be 18-year-old said. “I have a passion for both sports.”
The tremendous opportunity at Hampton is not lost on Martinez, leaving him a bit incredulous at the time of the interview.
“I do feel very fortunate,” he said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. Actually, thinking about it, it’s kind of surreal.”
As for his parents, Steve and Jamee Martinez–who also have another son, Louis, an accomplished pole vaulter at the University of Alabama–they both beamed with pride over their son and his athletic achievements.
“I’m over the moon,” said Steve, who played D3 football at Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School and CUNY Brooklyn College. “It’s phenomenal. To have two sons playing D1 sports is incredible.”
As for Jamee, she said, “I couldn’t be prouder of him. Watching him grow from a skinny, little kid to a big, strong kid, has been great to watch.”
Faced with a negative, like so many other athletes his age, Martinez turned the COVID-19 pandemic into a positive.
With a temporary freeze on all sports, and distance learning in place, Martinez used the extra time to start performing pushups. He went from 100 daily until he was doing 1000 a day. He also added pullups, and lifted weights in his basement as well.
The natural maturation process, coupled with his home workout routine, pushed Martinez to eventually join a gym as the restrictions were lifted. That hard work transformed him into a physical and cerebral force on the gridiron and the pitch.
“In quarantine, I was 5-6, 120 pounds,” the-now 6-foot-1, 193-pounder recalled. “I started doing push ups, from 100 a day to 1000 a day. When I had the frame, I joined a gym. Now, my body (has) really developed.”
Martinez is coming off a wonderful 2022 football season, during which he broke a Wallkill High School touchdown reception record with 12 out of 28 total catches, even after missing two games, per his family.
But he shined as a standout cornerback, recording 69 tackles and three interceptions this past campaign, according to MaxPreps.com. He said the Hampton coaching staff will most likely have him play in the defensive backfield in the fall.
As for lacrosse, Martinez mans the attackman position, and surpassed the 100 high school career assists mark last spring.
He used to play for True Lacrosse, a youth and high school lacrosse club. To keep in shape and fine tune his skills, he participates in a Monday night indoor field lacrosse league in his area.
“It’s made a big difference for him,” Steve said of his son playing club lacrosse. “It’s where he played better competition.”
You would think that being a two-sport student-athlete would be a burden at times for a young man, considering the challenge of balancing academics with a vigorous training regime and game schedule. But Martinez said it has helped him develop into a mature and organized adolescent, with a true sense of purpose.
“Playing both sports help me figure out time management better, ” Martinez said, in all earnest. “In the offseason, I train (hard) six days a week. During the seasons, I don’t go as intensely, but still go (to the gym) as much. But I love everything about it and look forward to my future this lacrosse season and at Hampton.”
The Football Pirates posted a 4-7 overall record and went 1-7 in Colonial Athletic Assocation (CAA) action in 2022-23, while the lacrosse team is off to a 1-3 start this season.
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— Jerry Del Priore
Photos courtesy of Steve Martinez.