Freshman LJ Martin Gives BYU Needed Spark During Sam Houston Win

Sep 3, 2023, 1:49 AM

Follow @kslsports...

PROVO, Utah – It was a big deal for the BYU football staff when they lipped El Paso, Texas, running back LJ Martin from Stanford to the Cougars.

But to Martin, he kept it low profile. Martin, often referred to as a player mature beyond his years, quietly signed his National Letter of Intent last December without any fanfare.

He waited to make it public until the February signing period so he could sign and celebrate the moment with all of his family and high school classmates.

LJ Martin had a game-high 91 rushing yards

In the era of engagement and gaining celebrity status, yes, Martin is mature for an 18-year-old.

That maturity from Martin was again displayed Saturday night in BYU’s 14-0 win over Sam Houston.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound ball carrier had 16 carries for 91 yards. That production occurred in the second half when BYU’s offense looked stuck in the mud.

BYU had an explosive first drive of the game that was capped off by a Kedon Slovis touchdown run. After that, Aaron Roderick’s came to a screeching halt.

Delivers a spark

Until Martin stepped in after offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and running backs coach Harvey Unga made a switch from UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins to the freshman.

“A-Rod and the offensive staff just felt like they wanted a spark,” said Kalani Sitake. “I was trying to create one with the fake punt; they just created one with the different personnel.”

What was running through Martin’s mind when he got the call in the third quarter?

“It was just to go out there and run. Just like I do in practice,” Martin said. “I run with the two’s in practice and go against the one’s defense in practice. I feel like the guys I go up against in practice got me ready for this.”

Maturity that earned playing time

During fall camp, coaches and teammates praised the young freshman. He was the name with the most buzz from the first scrimmage.

Throughout camp, he ran with patience and displayed a vision that very few young running backs show at the beginning of their collegiate careers.

After the impressive performance on Saturday, Martin is making a case to be the starting running back in the future.

Head coach Kalani Sitake said the competition will continue. At a minimum, BYU has a thunder-and-lightning tandem between Martin and Robbins in the backfield.

“I’ve got a great support staff. The whole team just supports me to do whatever I do. They just support each other. So it’s really easy to go out there and try to make the most of the opportunity I’m given,” said Martin.

Martin had his entire immediate family in attendance for the game. His parents, sisters, and grandparents all made the trip from El Paso.

They wore royal blue t-shirts with “Martin 27” on the back and probably didn’t expect this much success in his first game. LJ sure wasn’t expecting it himself.

“I always dreamed of [this moment],” Martin said. “I probably didn’t expect it to happen tonight.”

LJ Martin thanked his teammates

Shortly after acknowledging his big night, Martin showed that maturity again and recognized the entire running back room.

“Just everyone in the locker room [made this possible]. Aidan [Robbins], Deion [Smith], Miles [Davis], Enoch [Nawhine], Hinckley [Ropati], all of those dudes are supporting you throughout whatever you’re doing. You go out there, you get one yard, they’re happy for you. Go out to get negative two yards, they’re happy. Get 20, they’re happy. They are just the greatest people I could ask to mentor me.”

During fall camp, BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis, who also debuted as a Cougar, threw for 145 yards on 33 pass attempts. Slovis praised Martin in fall camp as a standout in the first scrimmage. So Saturday night’s performance was no shock to the former Pitt and USC quarterback.

“LJ has done a great job. I think the most impressive thing is that he’s just so mature in how he carries himself as a person and his knowledge of the game,” said Slovis. “You wouldn’t think he was a freshman that just came here a few months away. Everyone else is surprised, but I think everyone in the building kind of knew what we had and the type of player he is. We have high expectations for him and he met them tonight.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X (Twitter) and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

Take us with you wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports.

KSL 5 TV Live

KSLSports Feed

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Utah Warriors Play Best Game Of Season In Win Over Dallas Jackals

The Utah Warriors played one of their best games of the season and broke a six-game losing streak with a big 50-46 win over Dallas.

6 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Real Salt Lake Sees Unbeaten Streak Snapped At 15 Matches With Loss To LA Galaxy

Real Salt Lake watched its franchise record unbeaten streak of 15 consecutive matches fall after suffering a loss at home to the LA Galaxy.

7 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Georgia Tech Commit Shares Pictures From Visit To BYU Football

BYU is looking to flip a prospect from the ACC.

8 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

RSL Star Chicho Arango Exits Early After Suffering Head Injury Against LA Galaxy

Real Salt Lake star Chicho Arango suffered a head injury early in the first half against the LA Galaxy before he exited the field.

8 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Georgia Native TE Commits To BYU Football During Visit

Second day in a row that BYU football lands a commitment from a 2025 recruit.

9 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Gymnast Suni Lee Looks To Add To Olympic Medal Collection In Paris

American gymnast Suni Lee had a legendary performance at the 2020 Tokyo Games and looks to find more success at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Freshman LJ Martin Gives BYU Needed Spark During Sam Houston Win