May 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Terry Foster

Punter Sam Martin might prove to be wise choice for Lions

Allen Park -- The groans began shortly after Sam Martin's name was called in the fifth round of the NFL draft last month.

Martin, selected by the Lions out of Appalachian State, has the upper body of a linebacker, but was not drafted to play defense.

He's a punter, and that's where the angst from fans comes in.

"I am going to work hard and I want to help this team win," said Martin, who has boomed some impressive kicks — during practice. "And at the end the results will make the fans happy. At this point that is all I can do, and all I can say is I am going to work hard and compete and do my best to benefit the Lions."

The theory is you can find a punter anywhere. Like the seventh round, where the Colts drafted Pat McAfee in 2009. He is considered by many to be one of the best in the NFL.

In fact, four of the top five punters were drafted in the sixth round or lower. The other signed as a free agent with his current team.

Drafting for need

The Lions know they needed help at punter, and addressed that need. And for fans who think it's easy, think again.

"It's an intricate part of the game," said long snapper Don Muhlbach, who has been dependable much of his career. "Punting is like the defense pinning an opponent back. You have to put a premium on it.

"We drafted Jason Hanson in the second round and I am sure they (fans) threw a fit in 1991, or whenever that was. To get the good guys you have to draft him."

Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said Lions fans will notice balls "exploding" off Martin's foot.

"He has a cannon for a leg," Satterfield said. "He is going to be an excellent punter. His kickoffs will be in the back of the end zone every single time. They will be able to count on him. He is going to be huge for (the Lions). I watched his (NFL) workouts and he put on a clinic every time."

Tough beginnings

Martin's dad played baseball at Eastern Michigan. His mom is from Union Lake.

So he has local ties.

And he's got a leg.

Martin played center midfield in soccer in high school. He took up kicking and eventually turned down a soccer scholarship from Georgia State, opting to play football at Appalachian State.

But things didn't start well.

He lost his tryout at kicker as a freshman and redshirted. So, he began working out as a punter.

"I was erratic at first but I wanted to help the team and I got better at it," Martin said. "It is like a golf drive. I started liking it more and more and became more consistent. The more experience I got, it became more like a craft."

He worked out with kicking guru Dan Orner and steadily improved. While Martin doesn't have a ton of punting experience, he averaged 45.9 yards his senior season, placing 25 of 60 punts inside the 20-yard line.

"I have a chip on my shoulders," Martin said. "I know I am extremely able to do it. I know there might be some people who might not (believe) because they simply haven't heard of me."

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Lions fifth-round draft choice Sam Martin, right, here with rookie kicker Rookie kicker Havard Rugland is eager to show the team picked wisely last month. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News