Archive for Friday, May 31, 2013

Opinion: Charlie Weis alone couldn’t salvage Chris Martin

KU defensive end Chris Martin, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, arrived on campus in time for spring drills.

KU defensive end Chris Martin, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, arrived on campus in time for spring drills.

May 31, 2013


I believe more was at work in Charlie Weis’ bringing problem child Chris Martin to Lawrence than setting him loose on quarterbacks. Martin’s football talent, of course, played a huge part in it, but so, I suspect, did the Father Flanagan side to the Kansas University football coach.

Weis is equal parts braggart and unusually humble coach. He’s a smart, down-to-earth funny guy around familiar faces. With strangers, he can come off as a distant grouch. He’s a pal to glitzy celebrities, yet such a blue-collar dresser and family-first man. His complex psychological makeup seems to include a healthy dose of a burning desire to rescue wayward souls.

The probable-cause paperwork in the Martin case alleges in Count 1 that he did “unlawfully, knowingly, and feloniously take property, to wit: U.S. Currency and marijuana, from the person or presence of another ... by threat of bodily harm or by force while armed with a dangerous weapon.”

Already, whispers that bringing so many junior-college transfers (18 signed) to Lawrence in the same year was asking for trouble have grown to a roar, thanks to the horrific allegations leveled against Martin. Regarding the young man’s chances of maintaining a life not defined by penitentiary rules, it bodes well for Martin that he has no criminal record. That won’t help him keep a uniform.

Martin brought a trail of instability with him to Kansas. He spent most of his youth in Oakland, Calif. He moved to Colorado for his final couple of high school years. He made an oral commitment to attend Notre Dame and backed out after Weis was fired. He then signed with the University of California, but transferred to Florida, citing distractions. There, he was cited for possessing a small amount of marijuana and repeatedly drew criticism for his social-media postings. He has made commitments to three FBS schools and hasn’t played and isn’t likely to play a down for any of them.

Weis not only believed in his own ability to reach Martin in a way no coach before him had, he seemed to enjoy the challenge. The coach lit up when he talked about the muscular defensive end, a man so quick for his size, just not quick enough, apparently, to get out of his own way. Weis thought his could be the loudest voice in Martin’s head. If the alleged victim’s depiction of the facts holds true or close to it, Charlie thought wrong.

Viewing it with a relatively stable mind, it’s always impossible to understand how someone with such a great opportunity, such enormous earning potential, could put it all at risk by doing something no rational human would consider a wise decision. Martin, a sculpted 6-foot-4, 260-pound fat-burning specimen, is a model of physical fitness. Too often, we equate physical fitness with health, forgetting it’s only half the equation. Generations from now, we might devote as much time researching, testing and treating mental fitness, but it first must escape the realm of taboo. On that front, we have such a long way to go.

I came away from my lone one-on-one interview with Martin excited that he used such raw language and had the sort of personality that lends itself well to playing football, especially on defense. I also felt as if he was what we decades ago referred to as “a different sort of cat,” with a lot of junk-yard dog in him.

He amounts to Exhibit A of why recruiting so many junior-college players, a one-time strategy by Weis in order to jump-start the program, has its risks. Weis has said that in future classes he would like to have a balance of 75 percent high school, 25 percent juco players.

Most athletes who attend junior colleges do so for at least one of three reasons: 1. They want to develop their bodies and skills so that they can draw more attractive offers than they received out of high school; 2. They need to improve their academic transcripts to gain admission to the school of their choice; 3. Behavior problems.

In Martin’s case, Door No. 3 landed him at San Francisco City College and then KU. Who knows where next.

For every such move that backfires, Weis will become more selective in opening Door No. 3.

In researching personality types who tend toward rescuing people, I stumbled upon a website for the Sjolander Road Fellowship, an organization that grew out of a bible-study group out of Bayton, Texas. In the writings on that website, a most interesting rhetorical question was posed: “How do I rescue someone who won’t contribute to his own salvation?”


Alabamastreet 4 years, 12 months ago

Great column. If you pull back the lens some more, you get the larger questions as well. How do you harmonize fight songs, bands, cheerleaders, alumni with $60,000 SUVs and $400,000 homes, and an environment of books, classes and homework with many young adults who often come from backgrounds where besides from sports have no relationship to what the rest of us view as the "college experience." Weis and Self and other coaches get paid to navigate these young people through that journey while the rest of us simply wait for the next victory so we can feel good about our university and our teams and close our eyes and ears to the subtext of many of these kids backgrounds and histories. There is a lot more Roman in us than we often care to admit. There is a lot of hypocracy and contradiction in college althletics, and there is no doubt college presidents, athletic directors and coaches think about these things when they wake up in the silence of the morning and get ready to go to work each day figuring out how they harmonize winning with the principles that got them into these professions in the first place.

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 12 months ago

As a testament to KU football irrelevancy or maybe the "triviality" of a home invasion. this story has yet to make it to the collegiate football page of ESPN, which usually pummels and beats any dog to death.

Clickker 4 years, 12 months ago

This could possibly be Keeg's best article at the LJ world. Great insight.

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