NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Kareem Martin, DE North Carolina

4 of 4

Dec 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) and defensive end Kareem Martin (95) dump gatorade on head coach Larry Fedora in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina defeated Cincinnati 39-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

PS: You played 3,4 and 5 technique this year?

KM: Yea, I played all down the line this year; even a little nose in a nickel package.

PS: How much do you feel like it has helped you that you have been able to play so many spots and contribute from so many different spots?

KM: It definitely helped me a lot.  It opened the coaches eyes at the next level, because in different meetings talking to coaches and they’ve see me playing a bunch of different positions and I think that’s a credit that to the defensive line coach, defensive coordinator this year, putting me in different spots on the field and then myself just being productive from those points to show them that I’m more with an end with my hand down or I’m just this; they can see me in on third down being a 3-technique and I can rush from there.  Keep me outside or I can rush from the 3 outside; just showing that versatility definitely helped me as I go through this process.

PS: Have you gone back and watched tape of the guys that came before you or compared notes on things you can do to improve your game?

KM: When I talk to the guys that came before, it’s not so much about how I can improve.  It’s more about how can I get ready for the next level?  Just like what to expect.  Like Sylvester Williams, my roommate last year, he’s at the Broncos now; just him telling me the stories at camp and what to expect from the games just prepares me mentally for that next step.  I saw what type of player he was, to hear some of the things he’s saying, taking into consideration and put it in place.  Use it, use my ability to learn from what he didn’t do and things that he did do.  Having that person I can call and talk to, who can tell me what to expect is definitely helpful.

PS: How do you feel the combine went for you?

KM: I thought I had a great combine.  I trained really hard from the beginning of January all the way up until and I think it shows.

PS: Offensive linemen hate the 40 yard dash.  As a defensive lineman, is that something you guys like to do or just looking to get it over with?

KM: The 40 yard dash for a defensive lineman, it can definitely elevate you because even though we’re some of the bigger guys, we can put out some outstanding times as it was shown this year.  Some guys like it, because a lot of guys at 270lbs wouldn’t be able to run a 4.6 or a 4.7.  That’s just the way it is, but I was looking forward to it because I trained well and I liked the numbers I saw in training and I wanted to show I could run.  I guess it’s on an individual basis when you talk to a defensive lineman.  You can’t sum it up as a whole and say we hate it, but I think if you went down the line, I think more guys would say they like it more than they hate it.

PS: Especially you edge guys, you get to show off and stick it to people who think you guys aren’t great athletes as opposed to the fat kids on the inside or offensive linemen.

KM: Definitely.  A lot of those inside guys, they don’t really like running it.  They do it just to get a time, but the teams aren’t expecting them to run 40 yards to chase someone down.  But being an end and maybe as a 3-4 outside linebacker, I saw it as an opportunity to showcase me to the teams that would see me as a linebacker to show I was hand timed in the mid 4.6’s to show them that I do have the speed and the tools to be able to drop and hold coverage, I think it was helpful for me and all the edge rushers really.

PS: They don’t look at that for your ability to drop.  Come on now.  We look at the 10 and maybe we look at the 20.  It’s that 10, man.  I want to see how fast you can get up the field so you can hurt that quarterback.  I don’t care about the 40.  I get all of that out of the drills and if your hips can move.  How hard, how fast you can run the arc.  The first 10 yards are for me; the other 20-30 are for you guys to boast and I ran a 4.6 at that size, I would too.

KM: Well, if you’re talking 10s, I had the fastest one there (laughs).

PS: (laughs) There you go.  That’s the one that matters.

PS: Who was the best you faced down in Mobile?

KM: Down in Mobile, I’d say the kid from Notre Dame (Zack Martin) He was pretty good.

PS: He is getting flak because of his short arms and you have really long arms, so it’s interesting that you’re saying he was the best you faced.

PS: What was the most satisfying win of your career?

KM: Most satisfying? I’d say the last one when we beat Cincinnati.  It was just a culmination of things.  We started off the season 1-5, lost our quarterback, first year being back off the bowl ban.  It wasn’t looking so good for us going to a bowl game and we just all rallied together and strung off 5 of 6 wins.  And also, being able to go down there and win the bowl game in my last collegiate game ever.  It was just a great feeling.  From the beginning of the season to the end, it was just two totally different points.

PS: What’d you buy with your Belk Bowl money?

KM: Let’s see… I bought my sister a purse, I bought my mom some jewelry, my grandma, she wanted a mixer, and I bought myself a watch.

PS: I keep waiting for one of you guys to go completely selfish with this stuff.  I talked to Bryn Renner, figuring he would have bought golf stuff with it and he gave it away.

KM: Going into it, I thought, what would I want from Belk?  I was thinking, this is a good time to go Christmas shopping, so I knocked all of the Christmas shopping out of the way and had some left over for myself, so knocked a couple birds out.

PS: The game against Duke, that just seemed like a game that North Carolina keeps running into that are always so close and if they can pull it out, it would be a program chasing win.

KM: Yea, that was a tough loss, the last home game.  To have it against a team like Duke, one of your rivals, just the way it ended.  We felt like we had that game, but we made one too many mistakes.  They had a good team, not knocking them, you know, but we felt like we should have won the game, like we lost it more than they won it.  Not to knock them.  Coach (David) Cutcliffe led those guys to a great season, 10 wins if I’m not mistaken, but we feel like we lost that game.

PS: Is that a common theme?  The feeling that you have enough talent to be a top program but just aren’t putting it all together when you really need it?

KM: Yea, you know, every time we always have the talent.  It’s always something that doesn’t fall our way.  We don’t have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Sometimes, we dig a hole for ourselves and even though we have the talent, it just doesn’t fall our way.

PS: In terms of life after football, is there something you’d like to do with your public policy degree?

KM: Everything after football depends on how football goes for me, but I took a couple classes and it was something that seemed to interest me, because it’s about helping people at the end of the day with public policy.  And making change to benefit the people wherever you’re making the change at, so whether it’s something I looked at with city planning or something, helping out a big city, whether a big thing or a little thing, I just want to help people.

PS: Along those lines, have you been able to do much in terms of outreach and service during your career?

KM: Yea, in the Carolina Leadership Academy, I’ve been a mentor, read to children in the area.  I’ve definitely done a lot of volunteer work in the area, been involved in different leadership programs around here, just trying to leave my mark somewhere outside of just football.

PS: With everything you’ve done as far as leadership programs, how important was it for you to be a captain?

KM: It was a big deal.  A captain is voted on by the team at the end of the year.  It’s not one of those things where you get in at the beginning of January and have it until you leave.  It’s something that you work on constantly.  I pride myself on keeping my team up at practice, making plays on the field, just being that guy that somebody can talk to whether it’s about football or an off the field issue.  Just knowing that my team believed in me on and off the field enough to make me a captain is a special moment; one of the most special moments I’ve had since I’ve been here.

PS: How big of a hire was it for James Madison to get Coach Withers?

KM: That was a great hire for them.  James Madison, we played them a few years ago.  Coach Withers, like I said, he was the head coach for a year.  I thought he did a great job given the situation we were in and everything that was happening.  He has a clean slate over at JMU with nothing going on, I think he’s going to be able to coach those guys really well.  He’s going to be able to get things out of them that they didn’t even know they had.  I think they have the opportunity to have a really good year this year.

PS: How do you feel about North Carolina going forward under Coach Fedora?

KM: I think it’s going in the right direction.  One of the biggest things, even though we do get a lot of top talent especially on the defensive line, one thing that we’ve lacked is keeping the top instate guys.  That’s always been a problem for any of the instate programs really.  We usually lose a lot of guys, our best guys to the SEC, so one thing Coach Fedora’s really done is recruited the state really hard and I think as long as that keeps happening, that’s a lot of talent in the state.  If we can keep the top talent here like the way he’s been doing for this last couple years, I think it’ll stay going on the up and up.

PS: Is there a guy you feel is the next great Carolina defensive lineman now that you’re leaving?

KM: Yea, it was a guy who actually surprised me last year, starting in training camp.  Norkeithus Otis, he’s playing the bandit position; more of an outside linebacker but still plays defensive line position.  Just his development since he’s been here has been crazy.  He had a great spring last year and then in camp, those first few days, he was just surprising everyone.  His get off and just his production in camp, it even showed this season.  I know he was leading the team in sacks the first few games of the season before I ultimately took that over, but I think he finished with 7.5, 8 sacks this year.  He’s got his confidence now and I don’t see why he won’t be a 10 sack guy next year.

PS: What is your legacy at North Carolina?

KM: I think have a good legacy as the guy who did it right.  I graduated in three and a half years, played well on the field, been contributing since earlier in my career.  I’m what they want as a football player.  I’ve done more than just on the football field.  I’ve done things in the community, done it in the classroom, so I think I will be highly regarded from the alumni and even the players that are there and that are going to be coming in.

PS: What are teams getting from Kareem Martin as a player?

KM: You’ve got an intelligent football player first off.  You’ve got a guy who is going to come in and work hard, and you’re going to get a guy who is going to be productive.  As hard as you’ll work, if you’re not productive, you’re not going to last in the league, so that’s the biggest thing.  I’m going to come in and be productive whether it’s as a defensive lineman right away, special teams, I’m going to get my production up and contribute to the team.

– In addition to passing the eyeball test as an impressive physically built player, Kareem is the type of person who likely would have annihilated the interview process as he is is extremely determined and goal oriented as well as being engaging and thoughtful; the type of player NFL teams hope they can add to their team.  Best of luck to him as he goes forward and chases his dreams in the NFL.  Here is my breakdown of Kareem Martin and what I think he offers going into the NFL.