By Craig Beilfuss

COLUMBUS, OHIO— Former Muskegon Big Red star Cameron Martinez is looking for big things as the Ohio State Buckeyes prepare for the upcoming 2022 college football season.

“Win a national championship,” said Martinez, a safety on defense. “That is first and foremost… help and provide for this team in any way that I can.”

That is an annual goal for the Buckeyes, a traditional power in the world of college football.

On Saturday, Martinez and his teammates showcased their talents in the LIFEsports Ohio State spring football game. It was the Gray defense taking on the Scarlet offense in a scrimmage that attracted an estimated 50,000 Buckeye fans. It was one of the biggest turnouts for any spring game in the country, according to the NCAA.

The noon game started under partly cloudy skies, but by the end of the first quarter, the sun peeked out and temperatures approached 60 degrees.

Cameron Martinez (#10) and his Ohio State team-mates pay tribute to Dwayne Haskins on Saturday afternoon (Photo courtesy of LSJ photographer Leo Valdez)

Ohio State honored the memory of former Buckeye quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who was killed in an auto accident on April 9 by wearing a “DH” decal on their helmets. Prior to the national anthem there was a moment of silence and a video tribute to honor Haskins took place just before halftime.

Martinez, a 5-10, 190-pound safety, is a junior, however, a sophomore academically. The former Big Red played in only one game in 2020 against Indiana and ultimately red-shirted that season as a true freshman.

Martinez was a four-star prospect who was rated as the nation’s No. 14 athlete by during his senior season at Muskegon. He earned Ohio State University Scholar-Athlete status during the 2020 season.

Martinez, who is majoring in psychology, recorded 23 tackles during the 2021 season, including 14 unassisted and nine assisted tackles. He also had one interception that he returned 61 yards for a touchdown against Tulsa on September 18. He played in 12 of 13 games. He did not see any playing time in the season opener against Minnesota.

Cameron Martinez in action during the Ohio State spring football game (Photo courtesy of LSJ photographer Leo Valdez)

Ohio State finished the 2021-22 season with a wild come-from-behind Rose Bowl win over Utah, 48-45, to go along with an 11-2 overall record a final No. 5 ranking in the coaches’ poll.

“It was a really good way to finish off the season last year winning the Rose Bowl,” Martinez said “It was definitely really good following the way we finished the regular season. It helps to carry some of that momentum into this season. We know that we fell short of what we really wanted to do last season, so we have kind of been using that as motivation during this off-season going into this upcoming season.”

Ohio State faces a difficult schedule as they open the 2022 season at home against Notre Dame and end with their annual rivalry game against Michigan. Mixed in between are road games at Michigan State and Penn State and home games against Wisconsin and Iowa.

“It’s definitely a tough schedule all the way around, from top to bottom,” Martinez said. “You definitely have to bring it every day. We’ve got really good coaches that are preparing us for the upcoming season and I feel we’ll be ready to go.”

Pictured from left to right are: Keith Guy (step-father), Kiesha Guy (Cameron’s mother), Cameron Martinez and Keiarra Guy (step-sister). Photo courtesy of LSJ photograpgher Leo Valdez

Now comes the task of looking forward to the upcoming season and what Martinez sees as his role with the Buckeyes.

I think it was a really good year for me (last year) just being able to get out there and play, make some tackles and get some playing time during really what was my first year,” Martinez said. This year I hope is going to be better. I think I’ve worked hard to step up my game in a lot of different ways, so I feel really good going into the new season.”

Martinez lives in Columbus during the off-season participating in summer workouts and rarely gets back to Muskegon.

I am pretty much here all year,” said Martinez. “I do get just a little bit of time off to kind of reset and go back home before getting back here to get going and ready for fall camp and next season.

The quiet and calm Martinez began his high school career at Muskegon Catholic Central, where he played both quarterback and in the secondary for the Crusaders.

Martinez transferred to Muskegon High School and thrived under the direction of Muskegon head football coach Shane Fairfield and his high-flying offense.

During his senior season, Martinez threw for 1,258 yards and rushed for 2,124 yards. He accounted for 47 touchdowns.

As a starting quarterback, Martinez finished his Big Red career with a 26-2 record. The Buckeye safety is also in the Muskegon football record books for single-game records for rushing yards (352), touchdowns (six) and the single-season rushing record (2,526 as a junior in 2018).

During his 52-game high school career, Martinez finished with 6,954 rushing yards, which is 11th most on the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s all-time list and second most among quarterbacks.

Martinez guided Muskegon to three state championship games, including one title. Martinez won three different awards as the Michigan Player of the Year, including the title of Mr. Football. He was also the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Player of the Year and Associated Press Division 3-4 Player of the Year. He became the first player to win Player of the year award twice.

Martinez went from being the top player in Michigan to fighting daily to earn a spot on the Buckeyes’ depth chart. It’s an ongoing task when you’re vying for playing time on one of the nation’s premier college teams.

Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day is looking to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2022-2023 (Photo courtesy of LSJ Photographer Leo Valdez

You know, I really think Muskegon has prepared me for who I am today,” said Martinez. Muskegon, both the coaches and players over there in West Michigan, made me a better person. It has prepared me to become a better football player. I am competing and playing against the best of the best every day. It has taught me that I have to be patient and I knew that coming in in order to get more playing time. I am really excited about this year and I’m really ready to get going.”

Martinez knows what it will take to get more playing time in key situations.

I just have to keep doing what I am doing and I don’t think people will be surprised when they see me out there this year,” said Martinez.

The Buckeyes struggled on defense in 2021 season. Martinez and the Buckeyes know they’ll have to improve this coming fall. The Buckeyes brought in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State as the defensive coordinator in January.

We have a really good defensive coach and he is phenomenal,” Martinez said. “He will put us in a position to win and do good things. He’ll have us prepared. We know that we struggled on defense last year and our goals were cut short. This year we’ll be ready and prepared.

Ohio State will open the season September 3 at home against Notre Dame. The Buckeyes start the season with five home games and will play 8 home games in all.

All photo’s below are courtesy of LSJ photographer Leo Valdez

Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields took time to sign autographs on Saturday afternoon. Fields was the fourth overall draft pick in the 2021 NFL draft and is currently the starting QB for the Chicago Bears

Former Buckeye Orlando Pace was at the “Horseshoe” on Saturday afternoon. Pace a former #1 overall NFL draft pick was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016