Note: The following appears in the Boston College football gameday program.
Dabo Swinney has a celebrated tradition of excellence when it comes to walk-ons. Hunter Renfrow heads that list and has a Burlsworth Trophy (national award that goes each year to the top college football player who began his career as a walk-on) to show for it.
However, Danny Ford had his share of successful walk-ons as well, and one was honored earlier this year by Swinney’s program as the recipient of the 2021 Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award. Carl Martin, at 5’7”, was the smallest letterman on Clemson’s 1981 national championship team. He is this year’s recipient of the honor for his work in a community near Hilton Head, S.C.
Since 2013, Swinney has presented the award to a former Tiger who has consistently demonstrated the qualities of leadership, community service and other high qualities that are consistent with excellence since graduating from Clemson. A recipient must be out of school 10+ years. Dawkins, who played 16 seasons in the NFL, was named to nine Pro Bowls and was a finalist for many public service awards, was the first recipient of the award.
Martin may not have caught a game-winning touchdown pass with one second left to give the Tigers a national championship, but he played every game during the 1981 season, when Ford coached the Tigers to their first national title with a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. He played on special teams in every game in 1982 as well, and he recorded 10 special teams tackles during those two seasons, among the best totals on the squad for those two years.
He became a mainstay from a leadership standpoint as well on two ACC championship teams that finished No. 1 and No. 8 in the AP poll, respectively.
“Carl is a super person,” said Ford in an article on Martin during his playing days. “Pound for pound, he is the toughest player on the team and possibly the strongest. He has a lot of pride in his team and this school. It means a lot to us to have a player like Carl Martin on this team.”
“I was overwhelmed when Rashard Hall called and told me I had won the award,” said Martin. “I know who the former winners are and what they have achieved. To win an award with the Dawkins family name on it and to receive the award from Dabo Swinney’s program is a great honor.”
Martin graduated from Clemson in the spring of 1983, and he became a graduate assistant in the Tiger strength & conditioning department. He then completed his master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1987 and earned a doctorate degree from the same institution in 1998.
That academic training and his experience with the Clemson football program led him to his current profession. A life coach with Vision Ventures, Martin specializes in performance goal-setting and skill development for pastors, executives, business leaders and other entrepreneurs.
Most importantly, for the past 15 years, he has supervised a mentoring program in Bluffton, S.C. While the program was effective, it was not reaching the most vulnerable children who Martin wanted to reach. So three years ago, the program shifted its model to paid, professional mentoring. Over 25 years of research led him to believe that long-term, consistent mentorship was the key to success in breaking the cycle of poverty.
“Some children in South Carolina were falling through the cracks, but if you get them in their youth, you can have an impact and break the cycle of generational poverty,” said Martin, who is executive director of Real Champions, Inc. “That is why RCI starts earlier, beginning with a child in kindergarten or first grade, goes deeper and stays longer, until high school graduation.
“Once we start with the child, we want to stay with them no matter what. We take a humble approach and attitude. Our approach is to build a team of mentors around these children and give the parents a model by staying engaged.
“We try to give them important basic skills, like looking people in the eye and giving a good handshake.”
Martin has served two churches as lead pastor, planted a church, worked for the South Carolina Baptist Convention on the church planting team and he recently completed a role at LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, a church that welcomes 2,000 people to its weekend worship venues.
Currently, Martin is the pastor for Worship on the Water, the church for the Palmetto Bluff community near Hilton Head, S.C.