Ronald Martin always had dreams of playing in the pros.
The former White Castle High School two-sport star and four-year LSU safety didn’t imagine himself on an NFL roster.
“I probably would have said I think I’m going to be a basketball player,” Martin said. “I always used to like basketball so much.”
And he was good at it. He was named The Advocate’s 2011 Boys Athlete of the Year, and he led the Bulldogs to a Class 1A state title under coach Ronald Johnson. He even received an offer from LSU, where he played under former Tigers’ coach Trent Johnson for one year before deciding to focus on a different path.
That path required him to wear a pair of cleats, some shoulder pads and a helmet, and he was told to hit people.
He was good at that, too.
After four seasons as a safety under coach Les Miles, Martin sits and waits for the possibility of hearing his name called at the NFL draft, which begins Thursday in Chicago. Even after enduring the loss of his father during his junior season, Martin had a career-year during his senior campaign, putting him in a position to potentially join an NFL roster.
Martin’s decision to further his football career came easily after a year of trying to juggle two sports at LSU.
“I told Ronald straight up when he went to college, you can either be an average basketball player, or you can go make a whole lot of money playing football,” said Ferrante Dominique, Martin’s former football coach at White Castle. “Choosing football was a no-brainer.”
In the end, it was football’s physicality that eventually swayed Martin to continue his career in Tiger Stadium.
“When you start playing football, you see that it has that same competitiveness, plus it has that violence and physicality that makes you more of a man,” Martin said. “That’s why I really choose football. It helped me toward manhood.”
Martin eventually became a force in former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis’ secondary in 2014.
Martin entered the season with 76 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions over the first three years of his Tigers career. He had 73 tackles, nine pass breakups and two picks as a senior.
It was a complete turn-around from his junior year.
On the third weekend of the 2013 season, Martin lost his father, Ronald Martin Sr., to cancer. He later suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, forcing him to miss four of the team’s final five games.
“It was really humbling for me,” Martin said. “It took a big toll out of me. I just kept my faith in the Lord and kept trusting in my coaches and my teammates for support.”
Martin said he knows his father is still with him today.
“Each and every day, I wake up in the morning, and we have a conversation,” Martin said. “Even though it’s not a physical conversation, I know he’s never going to leave me. I know he wants the best for me.”
One day soon, Martin hopes to wake up and have a new conversation topic for his father.
Since the conclusion of the 2014 season, Martin’s focus has been in the weight room. After working out with a number of teammates in Arizona and participating at LSU’s annual pro day, now all he can do is sit and wait until the draft kicks off Thursday evening.
No one in the Martin family has ever played professionally.
With Martin receiving seventh-round projections, he could become the first to do so.
“I just think my dad would be so proud of that.”
Martin Sr. wouldn’t be the only one.
Martin’s legacy still lives on at White Castle. He’ll have plenty of friends watching closely as the rounds of the draft go by.
“A whole lot of tears are going to be shed,” Ronald Johnson said. “This will be a great, great moment just for Ronald’s family and for the community and for the state.”
“We’re all going to cheer and be joyful.”