Roan Martinez enjoying breakout year for Thunder

Junior Roan Martinez is experiencing a breakout season at wide receiver for the Thunder despite this being his first season at the position and just his third year playing tackle football. (Dave Minton/AFN Staff)

Roan Martinez was just another player trying to make his way up to Desert Vista’s varsity football roster last spring.

He spent his sophomore season on the junior varsity team primarily playing defense. When he entered the spring, his routes weren’t as crisp as he knew they had to be, he had decent size but knew he needed to get faster and stronger. Overall, he knew he had work to do before his junior season if he wanted to make an impact.

So, he got to work.

Martinez ran track at Desert Vista and is just shy of a sub-11 100-meter time. His keystone event, however, is the 400. Thanks mostly to his soccer background and endurance that comes with it. He worked tirelessly to improve, and he was given the nod to be one of the Thunder’s starting wideouts this season.

It’s an opportunity he has taken in stride.

“I wanted to play receiver so with a new coaching staff I thought I could switch over and prove something,” Martinez said. “So, that’s what I did. This opportunity is amazing. I’m always happy when I get the chance to be out there.”

Martinez is currently in the middle of a breakout junior season at wideout. He’s quickly become one of the top targets for junior quarterback Braxton Thomas.

The two have connected 15 times this season for 408 yards and five touchdowns. Martinez is currently averaging just over 80 yards per game. Against rival Mountain Pointe in the Ahwatukee Bowl, he had six catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns.

It was a big-time performance for a player that is quickly getting on the radar of colleges, major Division I programs included. Desert Vista coach Nate Gill believes it’s only a matter of time before schools begin to pull the trigger and offer Martinez.

A strong showing on the track this spring will likely be the time his recruitment blows up.

“He checks the box of having the physical frame,” Gill said. “The next box that needs to be checked is how well he can separate. His first year running track he goes 48 (seconds) in the 400. I expect him to go sub-11 in the 100. Once your tape matches your track time, that’s when things tend to take off.”

Martinez’s accolades this season come just two years after he started playing football. He played flag up until that point but was held out of full contact until his freshman season.

Even then, though, learning the wide receiver position was something he

never did up until the end of his sophomore season.

His speed and endurance to continuously run routes and become a deep threat came naturally with his years on the soccer field. But learning how to be explosive with and without the ball was an adjustment.

Then there’s the physical aspect. Soccer has become more physical over the years. But football is a different animal.

Against San Diego Madison to open the season, Martinez experienced for the first time how fast and physical varsity football players are. He said it was a bit of a shock, and he knew immediately that he had to expect to get hit every play to be successful. His mindset changed and so did his game.

“I definitely noticed there is a big jump from JV to varsity,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t expecting that right away. I just have to be ready for it. I’ve definitely adapted to it now. I feel like I’m supposed to be here.”

Martinez’s chemistry with Thomas was built in short order. The two hadn’t practiced together until last spring, when the Thunder joined other schools in annual spring practices. Even that, though, was limited with Martinez running track.

It took time for the relationship to develop. It also took time for the two to get their timing down on certain routes. It finally started to click against Verrado the week before the Ahwatukee Bowl. He had four receptions in that game. In the three games prior, he had five total.

Thomas said having a wideout like Martinez with a 6-foot-2 frame who can catch anything in the vicinity makes his job easier.

“It’s been crazy, I didn’t really expect it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t really know him until we started 7s. We started clicking from there. He was unguardable.

“He’s a natural route runner. I haven’t seen him drop a ball. He’s one of the most sure-handed receivers I’ve played with.”

Just a year ago, Martinez would have never thought football would be his future after high school. Now, however, that has all changed.

He has his sights set on earning a scholarship to continue playing. But he knows he still has work to do before he is ready to compete at that level.

For now, though, he’s focused on

helping Desert Vista win games. He knows the individual accolades will come with wins.

“This is just the beginning,” Martinez said. “I have another year ahead of me. We’re still progressing. It’s definitely exciting. It feels good knowing my work is starting to pay off.”

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