Ronnie Martin is thankful for a second chance.
On Wednesday, Martin became a two-time South Carolina football signee when he sent in his National Letter of Intent to play for the Gamecocks.
“My dream has come true,” Martin said Wednesday at a signing ceremony at the D1 Training facility in Greenville. “I’m ready. I wish I could suit up and go play in January, but I have to wait.”
Wednesday was the first day junior college prospects can sign with their new schools. The remainder of USC’s 2013 class – including junior college defensive end Alfy Hill – is expected to join the fold on National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
Martin, a cornerback, signed with USC in 2011 out of Spartanburg High but didn’t qualify academically. The road to FBS-level competition took a detour through Milledgeville, Ga., and Georgia Military College. The next stop on the journey is Columbia when Martin enrolls in January.
In 2011, he chose the Gamecocks over LSU and Nebraska. This time around he heard from LSU and Florida State, among others, but there was never much of a decision to make. South Carolina is where he wants to be.
“It doesn’t feel like the first time,” Martin said. “This time it feels better because now I know I’ve got everything taken care of. I’m ready to get down there and compete for a starting spot and a championship.”
Georgia Military’s regimented environment helped prepare him for the road ahead, Martin said. Football practice and schoolwork were closely monitored. Everything was mandatory and on a schedule.
“That got me mentally tough and more focused,” he said. “I went through a lot of adversity and it helped me become stronger. Georgia Military prepared me well to be ready for the SEC.”
Part of that adversity came during a freshman season in which Martin was largely cut off from the outside world. This spring – just like in high school – he started receiving mail from the Gamecocks. Then he met recruiter Joe Robinson, USC’s special teams coach, who told Martin a scholarship offer was still there.
That was his final motivation to finish strong in the classroom and on the field.
Martin’s GPA rose above 3.0, but a hamstring tear in his right leg would limit him to three games in his second season at Georgia Military. He expects 2012 to count as a redshirt year, giving him three years of eligibility at South Carolina.
He is considered a three-star athlete and is rated the fifth-best junior college cornerback for 2013, according to 247Sports.
“Ronnie was a great young man to have on the team, never a problem, good work ethic, conscientious about his technique and refining his abilities,” Georgia Military coach Bert Williams said. “We missed him on the field this season after the hamstring injury. He was a very dependable defender.”
Martin has grown since he put pen to paper inside Spartanburg High in 2011. Then, he was 5-foot-10 and 166 pounds. Today he is 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, with a goal to get to 200 pounds.
Not everything has changed. Martin is still confident in his abilities and his desire to earn a shot at early playing time.
And he’s just as passionate about playing for the Gamecocks.
“I’m way more excited now,” Martin said. “I’ve matured and the only way I can show it is when I’m on the field with the Gamecocks. It’s one of the best days of my life. Not everyone gets the opportunity to play in the SEC. I am blessed to have a second chance.”