After listening to Nebraska senior receiver Oliver Martin's session with local media last week, there's something I'll be more cognizant of going forward. 

Chalk up Martin's story as being a good reminder.

When a student-athlete is slowed or stopped by significant injury, it's often no small matter in his or her life. 

"It trickles into all aspects of your life," said Martin, who missed four full games and was limited in several others last season because of a nagging knee injury. 

"I essentially was in a mild depression when it was going on. It's harder to do school. It's a little bit harder to do everything."

Bottom line, Martin couldn't bend his leg for much of last autumn. The injury had been an issue during preseason camp in August. But he managed to catch six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's season-opening loss at Illinois.

However, right after the game, his knee swelled up "a ton" overnight, he recalled.

"After that, I couldn't run," he said. "I just had a really odd, nagging injury that didn't allow me to work out or train for a really long time. That was hard for me to transition into playing once I got back. It took a little while to knock the rust off, I guess." 

After his big day against Illinois, Martin missed the next four games entirely. He returned for the final seven games of the season, but had only four catches for 67 yards and zero touchdowns. 

To reiterate: He couldn't bend his leg. That seems like a problem for a major-college athlete, especially for a major-college pass-catcher who takes great pride in his route running and ability to dupe defensive backs with certain quick movements and various forms of deception. 

Martin puts in a lot of work in the offseason to perfect his routes, he said.

When all that work goes for naught, well, it can affect a student-athlete in various parts of his life away from the field — parts many of us never consider. 

"Oh, dude, it was the hardest thing to deal with mentally," he said. "You put in so much work. I felt like it was finally my time last season, and it kind of got stripped away from me right after the first game." 

The good news is that he feels he's regained his strength and explosiveness. 

"I feel like I'm playing at a high level right now," he said. 

A 6-foot, 200-pound native of Coralville, Iowa, Martin is prominent in Nebraska's top receiver rotation this spring. If he stays healthy, he seems a safe bet to be a focal point of new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's offense. 

By the way, Martin seems to genuinely like the new system.

"He's got a really wide variety of pass concepts to attack the different coverages and holes in the coverages," Martin said. "It feels like he has an answer to everything, and he can highlight the three different receiver positions or the tight end position in a lot of different concepts, which I like a lot.

"We've installed a wide variety already in the spring. It feels like we're making a lot of plays downfield." 

Martin prefers routes of the deep downfield variety. Exactly what shape that takes depends on coverage. 

Rated as a four-star receiver in high school, Martin has seen his share of different systems and coaches, having arrived at Nebraska after playing at both Michigan and Iowa. He sat out his first collegiate season as a redshirt at Michigan in 2017, then in 2018 caught 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.

He transferred to Iowa before the 2019 season and had five catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in five games that year. 

Keep in mind, Martin, playing for Iowa City West High School, set state records for career receptions (239), receiving yards (3,449) and touchdowns (33). 

He also was an eight-time state champion swimmer. 

In other words, he's an exceptionally high-level athlete. Now, he once again hopes to parlay his athleticism into a big season. 

A new receivers coach, Mickey Joseph, could help matters.

Martin describes Joseph as "a big relationship guy." 

"That's one thing that stands out to me compared to the other coaches I've had," Martin said. "He's made relationships with all the guys, and they're pretty tight-knit. There's a good brotherhood in the room.

"He holds a lot of people accountable. You need to be at meetings on time. You need to be at the right place at the right time. You need to execute your assignments on the field. If not, he'll let you know." 

Nebraska hired Joseph on Dec. 3, and not long after that, he met with receivers individually. 

"He called me into his office one-on-one and talked to me," Martin said. "That's where the relationship started. I thought that was pretty cool and, you know, I feel like I'm a lot closer with him than the previous coaches I've had. That's big for me." 

Martin seems like he's in a good place as Nebraska's spring season enters its final week.

He's in a much better space mentally than last fall, that's for sure. It's good to see and hear. 

"I think if I stay healthy, I can be really productive in the offense," he said. "I think I can have a lot of games like the Illinois game if I'm healthy."

He doesn't take that part for granted. It's no small matter in a player's life if he or she is sidelined for an extensive period. 

Next time I casually brush off someone's injury, or question an injury, I'll think of Martin's difficult 2021.

It's not only a sports matter.

Originally published on, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.


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