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Bringing in the talent

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Secondary/cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin talks with safety Jason Wells after a defensive series during the Apple Cup Nov. 28, 2009.

If there’s one truism in football, it’s that you can’t win games without players. Realistically, they’d better be good players as well.

Because of this, a college football program can’t win just with good coaching on the field; it had better have good recruiters as well.

Recruiting experts have unanimously lauded Washington’s 2010 recruiting class as the best in years, and it’s easy to see why. From head coach Steve Sarkisian on down the chain of command, the staff bursts with energetic and infectious personalities.

However, when reading interviews with kids who signed with Washington, the name of one coach in particular keeps coming up. Although he is officially listed as the cornerbacks’ coach, Demetrice Martin is bringing in top talent for just about every position.

Wide receiver James Johnson was one of the first recruits that Martin brought to Washington as a member of the 2009 recruiting class. He didn’t play cornerback, but there’s no doubt Martin’s young recruit made a mark on the Huskies last season, scoring a touchdown against LSU and seeing the field regularly. Martin’s savvy recruiting helped make it all possible.

“Being recruited out of high school was obviously a fun experience for me and a blessing from God, because it was just like all the hard work paid off,” Johnson said. “When it came to [being recruited by] coach Martin, it was really late, and I wasn’t even being recruited by Washington at the time. Next thing I know, I got a call from coach Martin — who my brother knew — and from there, I just knew this was the place.”

Fans love to follow the recruiting rankings and Web sites, but many may not know exactly what goes into putting those classes together. For the coaches, it’s all about evaluating talent and establishing relationships.

“Everything comes into play, but mostly I just want to get to know the kid and figure out what type of kid he is,” Martin said. “When it comes to recruiting, you find the guys who you see fit your program athletically and then, for me, I want to see who they are personally: where they are from, who they are, their upbringing. Those types of things all come into play.”

Martin also described the trust factor when recruiting.

“After that, it’s relationships,” Martin said. “That’s very important. You want the kids to trust you as much as you trust them.”

It’s obvious that coach Martin enjoys his job — he makes it look so easy and fun. One can only imagine how much he enjoys recruiting, which is a very tough job in its own right.

One thing that helps is that he genuinely likes what he is selling.

“UW is an awesome school to recruit to,” Martin said. “To bring kids in here with the rich tradition and history we have in the past, it’s almost a no-brainer. Now that we’re getting the train on the right track and you can feel the momentum, we’ve got a strong push everywhere we go.”

Martin has recruited enough athletes to know his pitch and believes that Washington has a unique draw that he can sell to top recruits.

“The first thing I sell is that we’re the No. 16 university in the nation academically,” Martin said. “Regardless of how far football takes you, the question is, what are you going to be able to do after football? You know that you can come in, and academically, it’s second to none. And for that part, we graduate 84 percent of our student athletes; things like that are all key points.”

For all the great things Martin tells kids over the phone, he thinks that nothing can convince a kid to play for Washington like showing them the place in person.

“Once they get up here and see the energy of our coaching staff and our team, all that kind of stuff is infectious, and once guys get here, they fall in love with it and want to be a part of it,” Martin said.

As the lead recruiter in Southern California, Martin has an especially important job.

“We have three main areas that we’ve got to do well in, and the first is our home state of Washington,” Martin said. “We’ve got to get the kids in Washington to want to stay home. Second is to go into Southern California. It’s the most populous region on the West Coast for football players, and we do a nice job there.”

The energy around the Washington football program is infectious, but the only way to keep the vibe going is with wins. Fortunately, with coaches like Martin, the football team should have the talent it needs.

Reach reporter Jacob Thorpe at sports@dailyuw.com.

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