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‘Franklin’s Getting a Good One’: Quinton Martin’s HS Coaches Expect him to Keep Smiling, Shining at Penn State

Penn State football commit Quinton Martin runs with the football for Belle Vernon.
Penn State football commit Quinton Martin runs with the football for Belle Vernon.

Penn State football signee-to-be Quinton Martin was already a Belle Vernon High School football legend.

Before the end of his senior season, he had led BV to two district titles and last season’s state crown.

But coming into the the state championship game scheduled for Dec. 9 against Northwestern Lehigh, Martin had a chance to add to his legacy, and, well,  that’s bad news for whoever is trying to stop him.

Martin saw to it that the opponent’s plan wouldn’t work. Midway through the third quarter, Martin ran for a gorgeous 92-yard touchdown run to put BV ahead by three scores, and Northwestern Lehigh was done. It was the perfect ending to the season. Martin hasn’t had a perfect high school career, but the high-end four-star has come closer than most, and that’s why this state title win came with a degree of sadness.

For Martin, it was his last time suiting up for the school where he became a nationally known superstar.

For Matt Humbert and his staff, it was their last chance to coach that star.

When Martin signs his letter of intent Wednesday, it will officially close the book on one of the western Pennsylvania’s finest high school careers.

Humbert told Nittany Sports Now that Martin signing will be a “bittersweet” moment for the coach.

Of course, Humbert will be elated for Martin as he enters the next chapter of his football story. At the same time, part of him wishes this chapter could have lasted forever.

“He’s the type of kid that makes you put a smile on your face,” Humbert told Nittany Sports Now. “He’s the type of kid that you want to be around and you want to be near.”

A PENN STATE-SIZED SMILE

Part of the reason Martin is so good at putting a smile on people’s faces is because he always has one on his.

This is noticeable to everybody, from his defensive coordinator, Brett Berish, who is 52 to Berrish’s eight-year old granddaughter, Ariana.

Berish says Ariana calls Martin “Cheese” for his smile, which is the size of Beaver Stadium.

Martin also loves to sing and dance. When Nittany Sports Now visited one of Belle Vernon’s practices in August, Martin danced to “Powerglide” by Rae Sremmurd for what felt like 20 minutes.

For Berrish, it’s felt like Martin has been at Belle Vernon for 20 years.

Berrish actually has been coaching at Belle Vernon for 30 years, and in that time, he’s been around some quality players.

“They’re not all like Quinton Martin,” he told Nittany Sports Now. “They’re selfish. They want the ball. They talk back to coaches.”

Berrish feels this attitude does wonders for Martin’s younger teammates.

“These freshmen, they look up to him,” he said. “They emulate him. They model his behavior. He’s the most gifted kid out there. He could have very easily said ‘I’m taking the day off.’ And he never did that.”

PENN STATE IS ADDING A SWISS-ARMY KNIFE

Part of what makes Martin so gifted is his versatility.

His goal at Penn State is to play running back, but his skills are hardly limited to that.

Sure, he had elite rushing stats this season (1,202 yards, 15 touchdowns), but his receiving stats (54 catches, 753 yards, 11 touchdowns) were stellar, as well, and this is just offense we’re talking about.

Martin was also a quality defensive back for Belle Vernon, so much to the point where, although Berish has no doubt Martin can be a successful running back or receiver , he feels Martin would be best on the other side of the ball.

“I mean, I just look at his frame (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and his athleticism and what he can do,” Berish said. “I mean, look, I’m not saying he’s not going to be able to run the ball in the Big Ten or be able to split out and make big plays downfield, because he will. But I think your draft stock and your longevity better suits you as a DB as opposed to a running back. That’s all I’m saying.”

Oh, and he can also return punts and kicks.

In Belle Vernon’s biggest games, Martin’s made signature plays in all three phases.

In last year’s WPIAL championship win over Avonworth, Martin returned a punt for a 51-yard touchdown that put BV ahead by two scores midway through the third quarter.

In the state title game two weeks later, he had an interception, then there was that 92-yard run in this year’s state title win.

In Humbert’s talks with James Franklin and Penn State’s coaching staff, he’s picked up that they feel Martin’s versatility can help him get playing time right off the bat.

“I think that they truly think that he can be a kid that can play early and often,” Humbert said. “I know that they’re excited, and I think, it’s one of those things, too, where they think that they can utilize him five different ways. So it will be interesting to see what he does. If he’s going to run the ball primarily, catch the ball primarily.”

Whatever Martin ends up doing, he’ll do it with a smile.

His defensive backs coach, Mike Steeber, will always remember Martin “singing and dancing during practice,” and not forgetting to enjoy himself throughout the grind of a high school football career.

“I think that just shows you his positive nature,” Steeber said. “You know, he’s picking everybody up. And when he’s on the field, it’s all about business, but he’s also having fun doing what he loves.”

TAKING BV TO ANOTHER LEVEL

Belle Vernon’s been a successful program historically, and its produced some big-time talent.

Scott McClintock played linebacker at Michigan in the early 2000s.

In the 2010s, Dorian Johnson became a five-star offensive lineman and initially committed to Penn State, but ended up going to Pitt, where he became a first-team All-American

Bill Contz was a starting offensive lineman on Penn State’s first national championship team in 1982 and went on to play six NFL seasons.

Craig Fayak made arguably the most famous kick in Penn State history: the game-winner in Penn State’s upset of No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend in 1990.

Current Notre Dame offensive line coach Joe Rudolph played at Belle Vernon and then was an All-American at Wisconsin.

“We’ve always had some dogs,” Berish said.

There have been plenty of star players and big moments and Belle Vernon’s history, but the Martin era has been the best one. Before Martin got there, the team had only won one WPIAL title and had never won states. During his tenure, Martin and BV won two of each.

Now, Martin didn’t do it alone. For instance, Belle Vernon’s QB, Braden Laux, will be signing with Eastern Michigan. But for Humbert, the star’s tremendous talent and positive attitude both were vital in taking Belle Vernon to a higher level.

“I think he’s elevated the program from a class standpoint because of who he is and how he handles things,” Humbert said. “I think he’s elevated the program in terms of the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding him. So, I think what he’s meant to the program is that he’s elevated it in a multitude of ways.”

Although Martin’s the first player people think of when they think of Belle Vernon football in the past decade, Humbert says he’d be the last one to boast about it, and that’s part of what made him a quality team leader.

“He understands that it’s a collective, and he understands that there’s a lot of cogs in the machine,” Humbert said. “He’ll be the first person to not take credit for anything, and that’s the way it should be. So, I think his actions— he’s loud, he’s vocal in a very jovial and positive way. But I think his actions and how he performs, he’s been really good this year just with his practice pedigree and things of that nature.”

Berish echoed that sentiment.

“He’s such an unselfish kid, and that’s one thing people need to understand the most. He’s a team-first guy, and he’s going to do great things at Penn State.”

THE NEXT EPISODE

By August 2024, Martin will be competing through his first fall camp at Penn State, and it’s during that time where Berish expects it to set in: The age of “Q” and many of the stars of two legendary Belle Vernon teams is over.

“I don’t think it will hit until next August rolls around and we’re in camp and we’re going through drills, and you look around and he’s not there and a lot of these other guys aren’t there,” he said.

But Humbert, Berish, Steeber and the program are more happy that Martin’s time at BV happened than sad that its ending.

“Franklin got a good one in him,” Berrish said.

“You’re proud of him,” Humbert said, “you’re excited for him, but, to be quite honest with you, you’re a little sad because he’s moving on and he’s such a positive, impactful person that you have in your life.”

“In my career,” Steeber said. “I’ve coached a lot of really great high school football players, but there’s been only one true Quinton Martin, that’s for sure.”

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