National Signing Day saw two local football standouts commit to playing at the next level of competition. Pitman High's Chris Martinez and Turlock High's Nicolas Berry signed their official letters of intent on Wednesday after each received football scholarships to their respective four-year universities.
Martinez, who was the most highly recruited football player to ever come out of the town of Turlock, had a plethora of Division I options but ultimately decided on San Diego State.
“The process was overwhelming. Thankfully, I had my momma to help me through it all,” said Martinez. “There are a lot of things people don't see that we go through; it’s hard but I feel like I ended at the right place at San Diego State.”
Martinez had made a commitment verbally to Nevada-Reno during his junior campaign, but unfortunately a change in the coaching staff had him rethinking his decision and weighing all his options.
“I was set with Nevada until the coaches got fired,” he said. “The entire staff got fired, so I wanted to start looking at other schools and visited San Diego State and I just fell in love with it and knew it was the right place.”
Many came knocking, including San Jose State, University of Hawaii and University of Arizona, which Martinez turned down just before physically meeting with them.
Martinez joins the list of six football players to come out of Pitman and move on to the Division I level alongside Colin Kaepernick and Anthony Harding. Martinez, who stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 284 pounds, also becomes the 44th player from Pitman to move on to play at a four-year university.
He was named the 2016 Central California Conference's Lineman of the Year and was selected to the Journal's first team the last two seasons and was named to the MaxPreps' Large School All-State Football team.
“If you would have told me four years ago that I would be here right now... I am just blessed to be in this position and thanks to all the people that helped me, it’s a great feeling,” said Martinez.
SDSU finished the 2016 season ranked No. 25 in the AP poll after defeating University of Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl, 34-10. The Aztecs are also the two-time defending Mountain West Conference champions.
Berry chose Sterling College in Kansas, which is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“I chose Sterling because it was a small school. I love the fact that there is one stoplight in the entire town,” said Berry. “The coaches are awesome, the campus is beautiful and everyone was just super friendly. I am excited. Definitely it’s still a little unreal to think I am playing college ball on a scholarship, it’s just incredible.”
Berry made the Turlock varsity team since his sophomore year and led the Bulldogs to their first CCC title since 2003, after a perfect run in league during the 2016 season.
Berry was the anchor for one of the more prolific attacks of the year for any team that included standout Danny Velasquez.
That offense had the best scoring offense for the year in the CCC, averaging 41.8 points per game. Berry, who is 6-foot-1 and a solid 335, was a big reason at the center position.
“My high school career was definitely a rollercoaster ride; [I]just bonded with so many people,” said Berry. “I guess I am a collegiate athlete now, which is incredible. Very few get to do this. I am very blessed, but I couldn't do it without my support group everywhere.”
Berry will be joining a Warriors team that went 8-3 overall just a season ago.
“My first year goals are to start. Nothing less than that,” Berry added. “I want to bring the KCAC title to Sterling this next year. And if possible to make all American as a freshman would be awesome.”