The Texas A&M University-Commerce football team has enjoyed its best period of sustained success in the last five years, and while many players and coaches have helped to create the team’s winning culture, one of the team’s smallest members has been one of its biggest contributors.
Standing at just 5’6”, and weighing in at 135 pounds according to the team’s roster, you could say that Lion kicker Kristov Martinez doesn’t stand out in a crowd. The Junior student is dwarfed by many of his teammates, but the impact he makes on the field is unmistakable. The kicker has appeared in every game the Lions have played in since he arrived as a freshman in 2015, and he has racked up what is now close to a record-breaking amount of points.
But the success on the field or in life has not come easy for Martinez. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Martinez and his family moved to south Texas when he was eight years old. He says that life in America was very difficult, which was agitated with constant moves and new schools to attend.
“My family moved around a lot after coming to America,” Martinez says. “I was constantly changing schools.”
Another struggle for the young Martinez was learning the language. He speaks the language very well now, but says that it took roughly four years to really be comfortable. It made life hard because he says that he was made fun of quite often due to his early struggles with English.
One thing that kept Martinez busy was the sport of soccer. An avid soccer player by the time he moved to America, Martinez says that playing soccer gave him an outlet and helped with the stress of adjusting to a new life in a new country. After many moves, his family settled in Edinburg, a city of just under 100,000 in Rio Grande Valley. This is where Martinez calls home.
As for football, Martinez says that he tried it in eighth grade when a football coach watched him kick. Not knowing anything about American Football, Martinez impressed the coach by hitting a 45-yard field goal in his first tryout, and says that he watched Youtube videos of the sport to familiarize himself with how to be a successful kicker. Martinez soon set his sights on greatness.
“I wanted to be the best kicker in the Valley,” Martinez said. “It was something I worked on quite a lot.”
It seems he made a good case for himself. According to statistics from Maxpreps, Martinez made 20 of 31 field goal attempts, with a long of 55 yards. Martinez also shined in the classroom, accumulating a 4.0 GPA in school.
But soccer was still a love of Martinez’s, and he put his name out to colleges to play. But he says he was told he was much too small to play big-time college soccer. This led him back to football, and says that Lions Head Coach Colby Carthel was the only one to show interest.
“Coach Carthel gave me a chance,” Martinez said. “I wanted to show that I could really succeed.”
In his freshman year in 2015, Martinez was immediately put to work on field goal and extra point duties, while another kicker handled the kickoffs. He says that he was very nervous due to being new and on his own in Commerce, but soon turned that focus to being the best.
Martinez has certainly made a case for possibly the best kicker in Lion history. The junior from Edinburg has made 39 of 55 career field goals for a 71 career percentage. He has also converted on 157 of 164 career point after attempts, for a 95 percent success rate. All of those kicks have led to a lot of points, which has brought Martinez close to an all-time school mark.
The Lion Kicker already holds the school record for most PATs and is second in field goals made, but the big prize is the all-time school scoring record, held by kicker Billy Watkins. Watkins’ record of 281 points has stood since 1993, but Martinez is hot on his trail with 274 points of his own as of the writing of this article, and with another year of eligibility to go. The record is something that Martinez says is on his mind, and it comes from his desire to succeed.
“Having the record would be so special to me,” Martinez said. “Growing up in the Valley, no one ever expects much out of you, but we can do great things.”
Martinez is not unaware of the fact that his efforts would be for nothing if not for the talented cast around him. Since his first appearance, the Lions are averaging close to 40 points per game.
“I wouldn’t get many chances to kick if we couldn’t score,” Martinez said. “There are so many talented players that score in so many different ways, and I wouldn’t be my position without them.”
Martinez also holds dear religious beliefs, and thanks God for giving him the talent to play at the level he has played at.
The Lion kicker plans to graduate early in December, and then attend graduate school and play out his final year of eligibility. He says he plans to become a high school math teacher and coach after finishing school.
There are many memories Martinez will come away from Commerce with. He says that his first field goal against Adams State in his freshman year is still something he holds very dear. Martinez says that he has enjoyed his time in Commerce, and the experience of being a student has been a very memorable one for him.
“Many people helped me on my way to get me to where I am now,” Martinez said. “Plenty of people said I wouldn’t make it, but thanks to family, friends, teachers, coaches and most importantly, God, I have been able to further my education and continue to play football.”
The Lions are pushing to make their third-consecutive NCAA Playoff appearance, and finish the regular season on the road Saturday against Tarleton State.