Three years ago, in a brief session of throw-around during halftime of a St. Joseph's Prep game, a freshman's future was altered.
"Each time I threw the ball, Steve Wagner, the freshman coach at the time, kept backing up, backing up, and backing up," Chris Martin recalled. "He then mentioned the possibility of me playing quarterback."
That exchange led Martin, previously a fullback and linebacker, to replace injured starter Pat Walsh as the freshman-team quarterback, spend his sophomore year as backup to Skyler Mornhinweg, and take the reins for two varsity seasons.
"Before freshman year, I had never played quarterback before. At first, I had no idea of what I was doing," Martin said, adding that head coach Gabe Infante and offensive coordinator Tim Roken "taught me everything I know about the position."
Proving to be a quick study, Martin shined as a passer and runner in a spread attack. This season, while overcoming a left-knee injury, he was the catalyst in the Hawks' drive to their first PIAA Class AAAA state championship.
For his poise, leadership, and down-the-stretch resolve, Martin is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania football player of the year.
In 13 games this season, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior completed 154 of 244 passes for 2,241 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also ran for 400-plus yards and six touchdowns.
In last Sunday's 35-10 triumph over Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Hersheypark Stadium, the captain hit on 13 of 21 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's amazing to finish your high school career that way," Martin said. "It's the ultimate goal coming into the season."
Five weeks earlier, the Prep nearly saw its season implode while beating La Salle for its first Catholic League title since 2006.
Early in the fourth quarter of a 30-20 triumph, while blocking for Olamide Zaccheaus on a Wildcat-formation run, Martin suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.
Under the guidance of Prep trainer Brian Ghee and Eric J. Kropf of Temple University Hospital, Martin rehabbed the knee for three weeks.
"I did a lot of bear crawls, squats, and leg extensions," Martin said. "During a free period at school, I would be in the trainer's office."
Martin returned in a state quarterfinal against District 11's Parkland. Wearing a brace, he connected on 12 of 22 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns as the Hawks prevailed, 21-10. A week later, in a 37-21 victory over Neshaminy, he was 12 for 20 for 243 yards and two scores.
The savvy field general is scheduled to have Kropf repair his knee on Dec. 30. That will be followed by a seven-month recovery.
Putting his career as a hard-hitting third baseman behind him, Martin plans to play football and major in economics at Division III Johns Hopkins.