Incoming MSU LB Martinez gains third year of eligibility

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — In the midst of plenty of recruiting victories, Michigan State got some more good news on Tuesday when transfer Drake Martinez successfully appealed his chance to have three years of eligibility beginning this fall.

"Congrats on winning the appeal! 3 for 3! Special thanks to MSU Compliance and Big10 office #LookWhoseCominToDinner!" Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio posted on Twitter.

Martinez, who will play linebacker at Michigan State, redshirted at Nebraska in 2013 before an illness led to his transferring to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., in 2014.

He played only one season but the Big Ten was going to take a season of eligibility from him for returning to a different league school. The conference rule stated he would be forced to sit out the 2015 season and have just two years of eligibility remaining because he began his career at another Big Ten school.

However, Michigan State's request for an intra-conference waiver has been granted by the Big Ten.

"We wish to thank Jen Smith and our compliance staff as well as the Big Ten for doing an outstanding job in managing this appeal," Dantonio said in a statement. "The Big Ten made the right decision in this case relative to the welfare of the student-athlete.

"Drake Martinez is an outstanding football player, who will have an opportunity to provide an immediate impact this season. This decision is very beneficial for Drake in terms of his personal development as a college football player in the Big Ten. We're very excited about having the opportunity to work with Drake when preseason camp opens in early August."

On signing day in February, Dantonio began lobbying for Martinez to have three years of eligibility beginning with the 2015 season.

"We will go out in public and just try and stimulate things, a public outcry I guess to try to have him three for three left," Dantonio said. "Every other conference in the country does that, no reason the Big Ten Conference should not be doing that, as well. He spends a year at a junior college. I think that he should have the opportunity to go sit and play wherever he wants to go play and not have to sit out a year when he is eligible.

"Get the rule changed or whatever we have got to do. I think when a young man has played someplace, and he'd gotten sick and lost 35 pounds and he leaves and goes back home, and he spends a year in residence at a junior college and his grades are all in order and he's going to transfer and graduate and fulfill all the requirements, I think he should be able to play."

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Martinez started eight games in 2014 at Saddleback College, recording 21 tackles as a redshirt freshman. He matched his season-high with five tackles and a blocked kick against Canyons.

The Laguna Beach (Calif.) native also registered five stops in the 2014 season opener against Cerritos. He was ranked among the nation's top junior college prospects overall (No. 36) as well as one of the top JUCO outside linebackers by (No. 4).