Jalen Martin stood on the field in Shenandoah, Texas, embracing his final night as a college football player. And what better way to end a career, than winning a national title in your home state. Martin, a Round Rock, Texas, native, starred at linebacker for the Crusaders, and came up big in UMHB’s 2018 national championship win over Mount Union, tallying a team-high seven solo tackles. His journey to the 2018 season was not easy; at the beginning of the 2016 season, he tore his ACL, sidelining him for the rest of year. He did not get the chance to play in the 2016 national title game, and made the most of his opportunities as the Cru aimed at a second championship win in his senior season. Following the 2018 season, Martin, along with three other Crusaders, earned AP All-American First Team honors.
Now, Martin, who graduated from UMHB in 2018 with a double major in economics and sport management, and in 2019 with a master’s degree in sports administration, is working hard to reach his goals of one day working in the front office for a pro sports team.
True To The Cru caught up with Martin, asked him about his memories from UMHB, and the impact his time in Belton had on him.
Q: At UMHB, you were such a key leader in the locker room and out on the field,
especially in your final two seasons for the newcomers who were still adjusting to
college life and the new level of football. From your experience as a leader, what
are some must-have qualities a leader must possess?
JM: The big thing with leadership that we talked about at UMHB was servant leadership. So going
the extra mile to be that person that is willing to do anything for your teammates and for the
better of the team. In my role at UMHB, I was never a team captain or anything like that but I
knew that for us to get better that my role as a player was going to have to be to step up. So
even if you’re not a team captain you still have to better yourself and better your team. Just
carrying yourself to a higher standard. People graduate every year, so somebody is going to
have to take that role. In my experience, I knew in 2017, that Baylor Mullins, who was a team
captain who led well, had graduated and that was the spot I’d be taking. I knew that my role was
to step in for the spot that he’d left. And he had led that role perfectly. So in the end, you have to
lead in a way that will make yourself better and your team better.
Q: Was there one or two people at UMHB, whether it be faculty, coaches, fellow players, students, who really made a big impact on you?
JM: There isn’t just one person that pops into my head, but a connective group throughout my time that has been there to help me through whatever i was going through. Whether it was football, school or life issues there were different people I could ask for help with. It’s funny now looking back on it because it wasn’t as was the people you expect to give you the advice. I had professors checking up on me about football struggles, coaches making sure I was doing good in my classes and work studies and friends being there for me through everything.
Q: Off the field, what did UMHB do for you, whether it be academically, spiritually, etc?
JM: No matter when you go, or what you do it will always be the people that make the places special, UMHB was no different. The best thing they gave me was the people I met there. Spending five years there in a small school like that, you get to develop friendships that go deeper, and so off the field my teammates were the people I spent the most time with, everywhere we went there was always four or five of us. Even with the friends I had made in my freshman and sophomore years that had transferred, I still keep in touch with because of the bond that was formed. UMHB definitely gave me lifetime friends.
Q: What is your favorite memory playing at Crusader Stadium?
JM: There are so many. There was no better place to play than at home, in that stadium. It’s something special during home games. It was always routine and had a sense of familiarity to it compared to traveling to away games. Eating the pregame meals overlooking the field, having our team devotional, doing our Cruise, running out the tunnel to the field, etc., every home game felt good. But to answer your question, I would have to narrow it down to three games that were my favorite. A 2016 regular season game against Linfield, which was our first time beating them in school history, a 2018 regular season game versus Hardin Simmons and a 2018 game against Wisconsin-Whitewater, which was our first time beating them in school history as well. All three of those games were also played at night which adds a different environment playing under the lights.