Desmond Martin: 'I feel like this is the year we're going to turn a lot of heads and make a lot of noise in the GLIAC.' (Michael Dubicki / Wayne State Athletics)
Detroit Desmond Martin has witnessed the good times and the bad at Wayne State.
After being redshirted his freshman year, Martin got his first taste of action as a running back on the 2011 team that set a school record for wins (12) and went on an improbable playoff run to reach the NCAA Division II national championship game.
Wayne State scuffled the next two seasons, finishing 5-5 in 2012 and 3-8 in 2013. Yet Martin saw his playing time steadily increase.
As a redshirt sophomore, his role expanded and he became a change-of-pace back behind starter Toney Davis. Then as a junior in 2013, Martin continued to prove himself and earned more carries, splitting time with Davis in the backfield and flip-flopping every other series.
Through it all, Martin never started a game.
But this year, the 6-foot, 220-pound fifth-year senior will be called upon to be the man.
I feel really good about it, Martin said. I feel like this is the year we're going to turn a lot of heads and make a lot of noise in the GLIAC. I'm expecting a big year from myself.
He's not the only one. Coach Paul Winters and the rest of the team will be relying on Martin to replace Davis, who ended his career second in rushing touchdowns (52) and third in rushing yards (3,933) in Wayne State history.
Martin enters the 2014 season ranked 22nd in all-time rushing with 1,213 yards, second in average yards per carry (5.44) -- behind Detroit Lion and former Harlon Hill Trophy winner Joique Bell -- and fifth in total offense per play (5.44) behind three quarterbacks and Bell.
Make no mistake, Martin brings plenty of experience to the table, having played in all 37 games the past three seasons. As a physical runner with deceptive speed, he rushed for 665 yards and five touchdowns on 139 carries in 11 games last year. And those numbers are minimal compared to the marks he plans to hit this season.
I expect myself to rush for 1,500 yards and at least 20 touchdowns, but the goal I'm aiming at is 2,000 yards, said Martin, who is from Redford Thurston. That's how high I set the bar.
Aside from being the workhorse, Martin knows he has to do more than just rack up yardage on the field. He has to be more of a leader and a mentor to make sure the same problems from the past two seasons don't stand in the way of this team's goals.
"From the 2011 year into the 2012 season, we were supposed to build on that and it didn't happen. I feel the reason was because people weren't holding each other accountable, Martin said. The 2011 team didn't let anything slide.
In 2013, the leadership could've been better. That's one thing we need to focus on is holding each other accountable. Whether it's the freshmen holding the seniors or the seniors holding the freshmen, I think it brings the best out of us.
Martin also knows that as the featured ball-carrier, he will play a larger role than ever as Wayne State tries to earn its first GLIAC title since 1975 and reach the playoffs for the second time in school history.
I have to continue to run hard, lead by example, make sure I'm doing what I need to do and let others know what I expect them to do, he said. And we have to remember why we're doing this. First is to win a GLIAC championship and the ultimate goal is to win the national championship.
I feel like we have the talent to do it. We just have to get the team cohesiveness together and get it done.
Wayne State kicks off its season at home versus Michigan Tech on Thursday at 6 p.m.