Laurens (SC) High School football Chris Liner had himself a good chuckle recently when he read some reactions online regarding the weight-lifting exploits of senior Duane Martin.
“There was a long comment list saying, ‘There’s no way a kid in high school can do that,”’ Liner said. “I kind of laughed because he does. He squatted 550 pounds in the state strength meet, and he didn’t even max out because he didn’t need to. He benched 350 and could have done more, but didn’t have to because he was already in first. He is really that strong.”
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound powerhouse intends to be flexing his muscles in the near future for East Carolina, where he became the third member of the recruiting Class of 2020 on April 5th. Martin chose the Pirates after receiving a scholarship offer from coach Mike Houston on March 21st. He also considered offers from Coastal Carolina and Wofford.
Martin’s ascent to Football Bowl Subdivision recruit began at Sanders Middle School where, even then, he was something of a physical phenom, according to Liner.
“I saw him play every game because my son played for the middle school with Duane,” Liner said. “So I’ve known him (Martin) since about the seventh grade. At that level, he was a man among boys. He was a foot taller than most of the players. I think, in his eighth grade year, they went 8-0 or 7-1. But he was just a guy nobody could tackle. He’d swat them (defenders) like flies.”
As a 6-1, 209-pound freshman, Martin made the Laurens varsity squad where he found himself competing against the biggest schools in South Carolina. Laurens plays in the largest of the state’s classifications, but has the smallest enrollment of those 5-A programs.
While there was a period of adjustment for Martin, he eventually emerged as a premier playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Raiders.
Martin spent most of his time as a junior playing offense where he ran for 973 yards and 15 touchdowns out of Liner’s Flexbone offense at fullback. The performance earned Martin Laurens County Player of the Year honors from the Laurens Touchdown Club.
Liner recalled two plays from last season that are good examples of what Martin can do on the football field.
The first occurred in the second game of the year against a Myrtle Beach squad featuring South Carolina quarterback commit Luke Doty.
“He (Martin) catches a little swing pass and outruns the whole team to the end zone about 70 yards,” Liner said. “A lot of athletes aren’t blessed with talent in every area. But Duane is a rare guy who is a good student, is fast for his size (timed at 4.55 seconds in 40-yard dash) and is very aggressive.”
The second game highlighting Martin came during an October game against T.L. Hanna, a team featuring several future FBS athletes. Martin ran 10 times for 79 yards and two scores, including a 40-yard scoring jaunt.
“They had five or six college guys on their team and went on to play for the state 5-A title,” Liner said. “He was playing fullback for us and just bulled over all of them.”
A previous relationship between Liner and ECU head coach Mike Houston along with assistants De’Rail Sims and Byron Threatt led to the Pirates’ initial interest in Martin. “I’ve got guys on my staff here who played for coach Houston,” Liner said.
The interest led Liner to drive Martin to Greenville for an unofficial visit March 16. During that visit, Houston invited Martin for a one-on-one talk and wound up offering him a scholarship.
“They really rolled out the red carpent for Duane,” Liner said. “They did such a good job I felt like I was being recruited.”
Just less than a month later, Martin gave his verbal commitment to the Pirates.
“I could tell on the way home that day he was dazzled,” Liner said. “I had taken him to four or five schools prior to that. I honestly wanted him to wait until the end of spring ball or the first of the summer to make a decision. But you could just tell East Carolina was where he wanted to go. He felt part of a family there.”
The Pirates are not only getting a powerful athlete who can do 24 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench press, but one who has been timed at 4.55 seconds and has a 35-inch vertical leap.
The general consensus is Martin will play linebacker for ECU, hut Liner said he could fit in at any number of positions.
“It was funny, when we were up there the tight end coach was saying, ‘I’ll take him.’ Then the linebacker coach says, ‘No, he’s mine,”’ Liner said. “Coach Sims, the running back coach says, ‘No, no.’ So there may be an internal battle where they wind up putting him. That’s a great problem to have.
“Where ever they put him, the East Carolina family is getting an extraordinary young man, not only because of his ability, but as a person and a leader. His work ethic is second to none. We had 40 workouts this winter and he was there for 40.”