By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Brandon Martin shares the worries which plague most writers, at least from time to time.
Does it resonate with the intended audience? Is it stale? Is it fresh? Is my stuff any good?
Martin, though, has an additional concern when he writes his weekly blog, "Huddle Buzz," for Shenandoah University's website at www.suhornets.com. A starting senior cornerback for the Hornets, Martin must walk a literary tight-rope of honesty and loyalty to his teammates each time he sits down to compose his latest installment.
A mass communications major at Shenandoah, Martin aspires to keep his connection to sports through his ability to write about them after he finishes his playing career. He's written for SU's sports information department, and even had a sports story published in "The 'Doah," Shenandoah's student-run newspaper.
Martin started his weekly blog with guidance from SU Assistant Athletics Director/Athletic Communications Director Scott Musa, shedding light on the inner workings of the Hornets' football program as it prepares each week for the next game. He started after SU's preseason scrimmage against Gettysburg, and Martin is still going strong. Still, he admits he's looking to "spice it up" and incorporate more than the daily routine and day-to-day news from practice.
"It's still fun," Martin said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm talking about the same things every week because we're doing the same things -- just preparing for a different opponent. Sometimes I wish I could actually add some stuff that goes on, but some of it you just have to keep in the locker room. I like it -- it's something I want to do, and I plan to continue doing it."
Keeping a positive outlook during the Hornets' 1-3 start so far might be a challenge, but Martin manages to maintain that balance between shedding light on the football team while maintaining a level of private "locker-room only" discretion.
"He kind of has to watch what he says, not just in being overly critical but also putting too much out -- other teams do look at us and our Internet site," teammate Byron Mitchell said. "He puts the right things in there -- kind of who stepped up this week, what new player has made their voice known, injury reports, stuff like that. So he's being real smart about what he puts up there."
Martin has plenty of positive material he's refrained from using much this season -- his own play. The Germantown, Md., senior currently leads the Hornets with four interceptions and has become a game-changing defender on a unit loaded with ability.
"I try to stay modest and humble, but I think I'm having an all right season," Martin said. "The four interceptions, they mean something to me, but right now -- the way the record is, it's just numbers. Personally, I don't feel like I've been playing up to my potential. I've given up a few plays that have actually turned the game around and lost us the game."
If Martin won't do it in print, Mitchell -- Shenandoah's hard-hitting starter at free safety -- is glad to fill in the gaps on Martin's outstanding season.
"He is always there," Mitchell said. "When the ball's thrown, expect him to be there. He knows when to break on the ball, he knows how to get it out of the receiver's hands, he knows how to make plays."
Martin has a bit of added motivation heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Guilford. He spent part of his freshman year at the fellow Old Dominion Athletic Conference school before transferring out to Montgomery (Md.) Community College. Martin said Guilford's then-coaching staff wasn't always straight with him. That staff is no longer at the school, but Martin still intends to have a good showing.
"I kind of wish they still were there so I could show them what they missed out on," Martin said. "I wouldn't say I have a grudge against them or anything, but it's going to fire me up and make me more into the game, make me want to play more perfect."
Perfection has been a work in progress for Martin, who had never played cornerback before his sophomore season in college. Shenandoah coach Paul Barnes said Martin's steep progression began last season, about midway through the year, and he's become an integral part of a defense that's allowing only 16.8 points per game (second-best in the ODAC) and is also second in total defense (292.2 yards per game).
"Corner is by far the hardest position I've ever had to play," said Martin, who rattled off quarterback, running back, wide receiver and safety as previous positions he's played before. "Me not being the fastest or the strongest person, it's really a physically demanding position. But I feel like I'm in the right spot at DB."
Martin has set his sights on Shenandoah's record book. His four picks is two off the school's single-season record, and his seven career interceptions is just four short of Dionte Beatty's school-record 11. If he does tie or break those marks, don't expect to read much about it in Martin's blog. He reserves his prose for building up his teammates, not himself.
"I think Brandon puts his heart and soul into that thing," Barnes said. "I just don't think he whips it up in about 15, 20 minutes. I think he really carefully thinks about what he's going to write. I really do like it."
After three straight losses, Martin is ready to have a ready-made upbeat topic for his next blog entry -- a Shenandoah victory.
"It kind of makes it a little tougher," Martin said of the losing streak. "I want to write about us winning; I don't want to write about us losing. I didn't expect us to come in and win every game, but at the same time I didn't expect us to get off to the start we did. I hate losing those really close games because I know we can be better than that."