Bucs WR Freddie Martino – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Somewhat forgotten in the excitement of Jameis Winston’s third-and-10 scramble, turned 39-yard completion to Mike Evans, was the very next play.
On first down, from the Bears 43-yard line, Winston sold play-action, looked back up the field and found a wide-open Freddie Martino for the deep score. It was Winston’s 41st touchdown pass, making him the youngest quarterback in NFL history (22 years, 10 months) to reach that mark.
Perhaps even more special, it was the second career reception and first touchdown for Martino, an undrafted receiver from Division II.
“That was awesome for Freddie,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. “Freddie’s my guy. Freddie was with us in Atlanta. He’s from an unbelievably small school. He had a gazillion catches in college.”
Koetter exaggerated that stat a bit, but not by much. At North Greenville University, Martino, a four-year starter for the Tigers, led the team in receptions and yards each season, including two 1,000-yard campaigns. In all, he caught 296 passes for 3,766 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Most of those receptions, Koetter joked, came off bubble screens for the 6-foot receiver. Sending Martino deep hadn’t been tried often and, fittingly, wasn’t even the original plan for the Bucs on that first-and-10 play from the 43-yard line.
“Not like that,” Koetter said, asked how the play was drawn up. “Freddie was doing the right thing. Everybody was doing the right thing. It was just based on what the coverage was. That’s not exactly how you think it’s going to go.
“For Jameis to hit Freddie on that, that was really cool.”
Winston, for his part, said he was happy to be able to provide Martino that opportunity. It was just another example of hard work paying off for an unlikely starter.
“Let me tell you about Freddie. If you guys stick after practice, the last people I’m throwing to are Cam Brate and Freddie Martino,” Winston said. “He’s staying out there, working. You never know when your time is going to be taken away from you. Take advantage of it.”
Martino, who signed onto the Falcons practice squad after going undrafted in 2014, took advantage of his time with Koetter in Atlanta to get another shot on his former offensive coordinator’s new team in Tampa. While no one is anointing Martino the new Vincent Jackson just yet, it was impressive to see a practice squad-turned-starter make that type of an impact.
Martino, a native of South Carolina, credited those around him.
“First, I’ve got to give credit to Mike [Evans] and Jameis for allowing that drive to keep going from that play [before],” Martino said. “Coach dialed up the play, we were running it in practice a couple times, we kind of knew the looks that we would get in certain situations and I ran my route, broke, saw grass and saw Jameis hadn’t thrown it yet.
“Then I saw him winding up. The ball seemed to be in the air for a long time, and those – the easy catches – are usually the ones that you kind of mishandle. But I was confident and ready. I saw it, grabbed it and made the touchdown.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was hoping they’d mix it up & pass a bit more on 1st down… didn’t expect that, though.
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