Easy to understand how and why Oliver Martin got swept away by the Michigan brand

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Oliver Martin

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - In the spring of 1988, I loaded my Toyota Corolla with what was basically my life at the time and moved to the gulf side of Florida.

The opportunity to live rent free at a beach front home in Longboat Key, Fla., was just too attractive to pass up.

I barely was out of college and the home was owned by the father of a very wealthy college classmate and friend of mine.

Our only instructions were to take care of the house and don’t bring any shame or embarrassment to the owner.

Remember, we were just out of college at the time.

I quickly landed a job as a bartender, and then after a few months of easy living, I started looking for what was available at some of the nearby newspapers.

I already had worked briefly for one newspaper in Iowa, so I had more than just a college degree at the time.

But for some reason, I wasn’t very motivated to land a newspaper job in Florida. I never pursued an interview, nor did I return calls on at least two occasions about interviewing for a job.

It took me a while to figure out why I was in such a funk, and then it finally occurred to me:

I wasn’t happy living in Florida, and was sort of looking for excuses to leave.

Despite the warm weather, the thrill of living across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and not having to pay rent, I still missed my home state, and my family and friends.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to make the decision to leave because after about nine months in Florida, my college buddy was ordered back home by his father to start looking for a job.

I was relieved and happy when told that our time in paradise would soon be over because I wanted so much to go home.

I bring this up because Oliver Martin’s decision to transfer from Michigan to Iowa made me think of my decision to move to Florida 30 years ago.

Obviously, the circumstances are much different, but we both went with how we felt at the time and were swayed by glamour, glitz and opportunity.

Martin, like so many other elite recruits, was mesmerized by Michigan’s sales pitch, and by the influence and quirky behavior of head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Martin and Harbaugh celebrated Martin's verbal commitment by jumping into a pool together.

Martin was also a star swimmer at Iowa City West High School, so it was only fitting that he and Harbaugh would celebrate by jumping in to a swimming pool.

To say that Iowa fans were not amused about the milestone moment after it had gone viral on social media would be an understatement.

Iowa has struggled to sign highly ranked receivers, so to lose one from your own backyard to a rival Big Ten school cut deep.

Some fans felt betrayed and resented that Martin had turned down, not just his home-state school, but his home-town school.

But let’s look at it from Martin’s perspective and try to understand why he picked Michigan out of high school.

For starters, it’s Michigan, one of the most storied programs in the history of college sports, let alone football. And when Michigan wants you, few schools can match what it has to offer.

Most of the players on Iowa’s rosters throughout the years didn’t have a scholarship offer from Michigan, so they never had to make that choice.

Greg Davis was also in his fifth year as the Iowa offensive coordinator when Martin was a senior at West High in the fall of 2016, and that probably didn’t help Iowa’s cause because the passing attack had mostly sputtered under Davis.

There was also uncertainty at the receiver position as Iowa was going through a coaching change and didn’t announce the hiring of Kelton Copeland as the new receivers coach until mid-February.

Davis would go on to retire less than week after end of the 2016 season, and was replaced by Brian Ferentz, who was announced as the new offensive coordinator on Jan. 9, 2017.

However, by then, it was too late for Iowa to catch up with Michigan in the recruitment of Martin, especially without having a receivers coach at the time.

Martin would go on to sign with Michigan and that was the start of what he hoped would be a spectacular and exciting journey, much like I felt when I moved to Florida.

But at some point along the way, Martin apparently started feeling different about being a Michigan football player. The glitz and glamor from the recruiting process had faded and he was now living day to day in a new a place with new people and new challenges, on and off the field.

Martin was redshirted as true freshman in 2017 and then appeared in all 13 games last season. He was used mostly as a complementary receiver and finished with 11 catches for 125 yards and one touchdown last season.

Michigan has since changed offensive coordinators, and like always, is loaded at receiver.

So maybe the circumstances at Michigan just didn’t fit with what Martin wants right now. What seemed to be the best choice for him two years ago was no longer the best choice.

We all make choices and decisions that don’t produce the results we had hoped to achieve.

Martin now believes that being a Hawkeye is in his best interest, and it makes sense that he would feel that way.

Martin is returning to the comfort of home to play for the longest-tenured head coach in college football and for a program that has made 16 bowl appearances since 2001.

Martin is joining an Iowa program that always puts the team first before any player and that always stresses substance over style. And that seems to fit his laid-back and humble nature better than the hype machine at Michigan.

Those Hawkeye fans who feel a need to criticize Martin for not signing with Iowa out of high school  should stop being so petty and just get over it and welcome him back.

It was so disappointing to read what former Iowa walk-on fullback Drake Kulick said about Martin on Twitter when Kulick doesn’t have all the facts.

Kulick also never had a scholarship offer from Michigan, and I doubt that he even knows Martin personally.

It has been suggested that Martin has a sense of entitlement or that he just wants the attention, but if you knew Oliver Martin, you would know that isn’t the case.

Martin never embraced the spotlight during the recruiting process. He seemed uncomfortable talking about himself and he never sought attention, or returned phone calls for that matter.

But to say that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz should tell Martin to kick our Rock on the way out, and to call Martin a bench-warming bozo as Kulick did in his tweet, is just mean, vindictive and wrong.

Oliver Martin thought that playing for Michigan would be in his best interest, but as it turns out, he was wrong.

But maybe he just needed to experience being a Wolverine to realize that being a Hawkeye was ultimately in his best interest.

And if so, more power to him.