Region 7-AAA defensive player of the year and Dawson County High School senior Luke Martin signed last week to play football for Georgia Military College in front of teammates, coaches, family and friends in the school's media center.
The beloved football player got choked up as coaches and family all over the room took turns describing a young man of "sterling character" during the March 22 event.
"I could talk all day about Luke. We all know he is a tremendous football player but he is even a better person-a leader. His heart is unmatched," said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. "I have been coaching a long time and to find the passion that this young man has. He is going to do great things. What separates the good from the great is what is inside."
Martin is a part of a core group of boys who grew up together playing football in Dawson County since they were together on a park and recreation team.
His uncle, Josh Watson, is the current inside linebackers coach at DCHS and coached Martin throughout his park and rec days.
"I have had him since he was 7. I have come up with a lot of these seniors that have come up with him," Watson said. "Just to be a part of Luke's life is an honor because he is such an awesome kid. I'm excited to watch him on the next level. I pray that he always keeps God first in his life and seeks him out."
The 6' 2" 225-pound linebacker accumulated 185 tackles in 10 games with 20 tackles for a loss during his senior season. He also had two interceptions including a pick six.
Martin also had five receptions for 44 yards and touchdown and blocks too numerous to count on the offensive side of the ball.
"It's a lot more fun playing on the same side instead of the opposite side," said defensive backs coach Bradley Fowler.
The affection between Martin and his family and the administration and staff at DCHS is clearly mutual.
"You don't know how precious it is for a father to understand that he is going to a school at a place that loves him and a place that puts God first," said Martin's dad Casey. "I love this community. I love this school. I love the character that they bestow upon all our boys."
Martin and his family talked extensively about how grateful they are for the opportunities afforded at Dawson County as well as about the struggle to choose which of the offers he would take to play at the collegiate level as his passion for the game only continues to grow.
"There have been nights where I stressed out about this a lot. There would be nights when I would just be on my knees praying and praying and praying that God would just give me an opportunity and He did," Martin said.
Ultimately he chose Georgia Military as it was closer to home and gives him options going forward.
"A lot of it was based on what junior college fit me the best, where I felt like I could get the best exposure to maybe use it as a stepping stone to go to another level," Martin said.
"Luke and I spent a lot of time talking and praying about where he would go to school. I think this is exactly where God wants him to be. I just pray he loves Georgia Military like he loves Dawson County," said Martin's mom, Kristy.
"I will never forget the memories I made with them. I am just so thankful that God placed them in my life. I just love these people. I thank ya'll for everything," Martin said.