Back in March, an already loaded Wake Forest 2012 recruiting class picked up an unexpected gem.
D.C. United U18 and U.S. U20 midfielder Collin Martin was announced as a late addition to the Demon Deacons after getting everything set in order to graduate early from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland.
Finishing high school early was something the ambitious 17-year-old had been planning on in order to push his playing career along.
“I always wanted to graduate early either if it was going to Europe or going to Wake or just going to any school, I had that in mind,” Martin told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Before the year I took two English classes so I could graduate early.”
On the field, Martin’s attacking qualities are hard to miss. Calm and smooth on the ball, his passing and technical abilities are just a few that stand out on a talented D.C. United U18 team.
An attacking midfielder who can play centrally or on the outside in D.C.’s 4-3-3, his addition to Wake’s talented class is another feather in the cap of Jay Vidovich.
“We’re very excited,” Vidovich told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Where he’s come from a year ago at this time is tremendous leaps already. He’s grown up as a person, his mentality is tremendous, I just see him keep getting better. For us to have the opportunity to work with him and help him to the next stage of his career is exciting.”
That improvement over the past calendar year also caught the eye of Martin’s academy coach Nolan Sheldon.
“What Collin has done better is he’s become a bit more professional in his approach, so he understands the benefits of working hard, consistently,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “He understands the benefits of defending and participating in that part of the game because it’s still a big part of the game. There’s no question about his technical abilities and his attacking abilities, they’re second to none from what we’ve seen in the Academy.”
Also impressed by Martin is Tab Ramos, head coach of the U.S. U20 Men’s National Team. Martin has been involved in all three camps so far this season, and he’s tried to soak up as much as he can from those experiences.
“They’ve been really nice because you always want to be challenged at a different level,” Martin told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Having players always at your back, having not only athletic people but technical people, that combination really pushes you to build your technical game and tactical game to make you an overall better player.”
Despite being one of the youngest players at last week’s camp in Portland – he doesn’t turn 18 until November – Martin started and played 68 minutes in the scrimmage against Washington that the U.S. won 1-0.
The midfielder particularly appreciates the opportunity to play for a coach with the experience and pedigree of someone like Ramos, a long-time professional and World Cup veteran for the USA.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Every single time he talks and any of the coaches, your head’s up, giving good eye contact, you’re listening to everything he says because you know it’s important and in the end going to help you.”
Closer to home, Martin’s talents have earned him opportunities to play in scrimmages with D.C. United’s first team, and in 2011, he scored in a reserve match against the New England Revolution.
He was quick to praise the coaches he’s worked with at the academy level who have helped foster his progression.
“Every coach that’s been here, and all the people in the organization have put a lot of trust in me, and really let me solve my own problems on the field or let me express myself,” he said. “I think that’s the best thing that can happen for my development, just letting me have a free role and offensively create my own opportunities.”
Before departing for college in the fall, Martin is hopeful that he can finish on a high note with D.C.’s U18 squad – one that boasts several talented players, including fellow Deamon Deacon to be Jalen Robinson, along with Marcus Salandy-Defour and Patrick Foss, both 2012 graduates who will become Martin’s ACC rivals at Virginia.
This fall, the challenge is then to crack the lineup at Wake, something that might take some time.
“It’ll depend on how quickly Collin will adapt to our style of play and the athleticism at the college level, the speed of play, classes and everything else he’s going to have to balance,” Vidovich said.
As far as D.C. is concerned, there is plenty to be excited about as their rising star heads off a year earlier than expected.
“We’re glad that he is [leaving early] because he needs a new challenge, and Wake Forest will do that for him.” Sheldon said. “From our perspective, our job is to develop players for the next level, Wake Forest is definitely a level up from what we’re playing here, the sooner he can go and challenge himself, the better. We’re excited for him.”