Oct. 8, 1997
By Mike Miller
ASU Student Assistant
Each member of the ASU backfield shares a goal and role.
The goal for Michael Martin, J.R. Redmond, Marlon Farlow, and Jeff "The Incredible" Paulk is to help carry the offense back to Pasadena.
The roles, however, are quite different:
Martin is the veteran of the bunch and should be bestowed with a Medal of Honor just for continuing his college career. Last season, Martin suffered a broken neck against UCLA when he tried to tackle a defender on a fumble return. He was off to a fast start that had potential post-season accolades written all over it, until he suffered his injury. For the rest of the season, all Martin could do was watch. With this being his senior year, Martin is trying to end his career in good health and quality performance. Currently, he is among the top-10 rushers in the conference.
Redmond is Mr. Versatility. The sophomore sensation shoulders more than half of ASU's yards per game average because of his ability to do it all, from receiving hand-offs to receiving punts. His running style is much like his varied forms of production. He'll either run around defenders, run through them, or carry them with him.
Farlow is the secret agent. Sneaky because his stocky 5-10, 203-pound frame allows him to covertly maneuver to the outside while hiding behind a Sun Devil offensive line that averages about 6-4, 290. Also, since he is seldom used opposing teams will be surprised to find that he is productive.
Paulk is the protector. However, defenses would rather refer to him as the intimidator. The bone-crushing lead blocker has a simple job, at least for him: sprint toward a 6-3, 250 pound linebacker in pursuit and knock him on his rear. When Paulk isn't clearing holes for teammates, the 6-1, 240 pound fullback showed last season he could clear them for himself. In the final three games of the regular season, Paulk averaged 9.2 yards per rush. Both Redmond and Martin believe that Paulk is the best fullback in the country. "He gives it his all in every play," Martin said. "Linebackers shy away from him in the fourth quarter."
The on-field camaraderie has proven to be quite beneficial to the success of this foursome.
"We've all held our heads up with whatever has happened to us," Redmond said. "Whenever someone is doing something wrong in practice or in a game, we don't jump on each other. We just give each other constructive criticism and everything is all good."
"We all know our roles," Martin said. "If you're not doing well and someone who plays behind you is playing as well as you, then it provides motivation."
Martin and Redmond's performances this season have proved the significant amount of motivation that comes from watching a teammate succeed. The duo's performance in ASU's 23-12 victory against Miami at the Orange Bowl gives is a prime example. Each grinded out over 100 yards and became the first pair of running backs to accomplish that against the 'Canes since 1979.
"We just feed off each other," Redmond said. "I see Mike go in there and he'll get the ball and run in between tackles to get those hard yards. Depending on what play I get, I might try to run around somebody and go the distance. We just complement each other well in that way."
Martin's truest form of motivation came during his rehabilitation of the neck injury that almost spoiled his career. Martin says that he felt 100-percent support from the team and the fans during his time out and it helped him through the difficulties. This season, he says he is playing pain-free. With him back in the starting lineup to begin this season, Martin has made a very positive impression.
"I would usually tap him on the back of his head so he'd turn around and wouldn't see who it was," Paulk joked. "No, but we were really supportive. He's been through a lot with his knee and his neck. He's a real hard worker and we're glad that he has an opportunity to play. Coming back from that kind of injury is very hard, knowing that it can happen again. So seeing him come back has been very inspirational."
"Really, Mike's neck injury -- I know this sounds kind of funny -- helped me out," Redmond said. "It let me know that no matter what happens, if you want it bad enough, you can have it. A lot of people, after a neck injury, just decide to let it pass on down and think about other things. But Mike worked hard to where he could get himself back into condition to play and play just as well as he did before he was injured."
Off the field, the foursome's relationship is "comfortable" according to Redmond. "We also have the relationship that has nothing to do with football," Redmond said. "We're all friends."
Paulk agrees. "We're all pretty tight."
It's a tight foursome the rest of the Pac-10 could do without.