West Texas A&M offensive coordinator Russ Martin, right, discusses a play with quarterback Nick Gerber during Saturday’s practice. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
Years of experience, a wealth of knowledge and the ability to adapt over four decades is what new offensive coordinator Russ Martin brings to the West Texas A&M football team.
Growing up on a farm in Scott’s Bluff, Neb. Martin felt it was his calling to coach by the age of 14.
“It’s something I felt I’ve always wanted to do,” Martin said. “So I went and to college and played football at Chadron State, and did my graduate assistant right away.”
Since Chadron State, Martin has now been in coaching for 42 years with 34 of those coming at the college level.
Over his past eight years, the veteran Martin has served as the head football coach at Colorado Mesa posting a 56-33 record. He led the Mavericks to three Rocky Mountain Championships and one NCAA Division II Playoff appearance during his time in Grand Junction, Colo.
“After eight years at Mesa we decided to part ways,” Martin said. “I didn’t know what was next and coach Hughes called me and I immediately knew I wanted to come coach with him.”
After the loss of first-year offensive coordinator Jake Brown— who left WT to be a game analyst at Baylor University — and a plethora of talent returning on offense for the Buffs, Hughes knew the OC position was a key hire to keep the momentum of his program going strong.
Hughes and Martin built a mutual respect for one another as opponents in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, so the hire was an easy one for Hughes.
“I’ve known coach (Russ) Martin for 15 years,” said Hughes, who is 17-16 entering his fourth season as the Buffs head coach. “I competed against his teams when I was at Colorado State-Pueblo. I have a lot of great respect for him.
You can tell just by a live scrimmage he makes it difficult for defensive guys. He’s going to out gap you, he’s going to put you in a lot of conflict on the defensive side of the ball. It seems complicated, but it’s been easy for our quarterbacks and our players.”
Martin holds the same respect for Hughes.
“I’ve felt coach (Hunter) Hughes is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country,” Martin said. “I went head-to-head with him at Nebraska-Kearney and Colorado Mesa. So when coach Hughes called me I immediately knew I wanted to come.”
Martin is excited for this opportunity. He’s spent time coaching nearly every position on the field tweaking his craft over his 42 years. As much as the game continues to change over that time, Martin has always found a way to adapt, and keep moving forward. With this talented WT offense that brings back quarterback Nick Gerber, an experienced offensive line, tight end Jordan Johnson, and a stable of running back, Martin is chomping at the bit to show how good this team can be.
“We’re going to be very versatile,” Martin said. “We can spread it out, we can run inside zone, and we can run power. We feel very good in everything we can do by running and throwing the football.”
The Buffs open their season when they host Oklahoma Panhandle State at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Buffaloes Stadium.