A Family Affair For Irish O-Line

It’s quite a family affair along Notre Dame’s offensive line this August when the names Golic and Hanratty are in the top seven-man rotation, along with the sibling tandem of tackles Zack Martin and Nick Martin.

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• Fifth-year senior Mike Golic Jr. not only is the starting right guard, but also is the Next Man In at center, where he started the last four games last season after classmate Braxston Cave suffered a foot injury. One of his uncles, Bob, starred for the 1977 national champs. Another, Greg, played with the Irish from 1980-83. Finally, his father, Mike Sr., was a captain on the 1984 team before embarking on a nine-year NFL career and even greater renown as an ESPN talk-show personality.

• Hanratty is the offspring of 1966-68 All-America quarterback Terry Hanratty, who helped propel the Irish to the 1966 national title. According to head coach Brian Kelly, the 6-5, 305-pound son has worked his way into becoming the top swingman at either guard slot with the progress he has made this August.

• Sophomore Nick Martin has been in the shadow of older brother and senior Zack, who has started 26 straight games and was Notre Dame’s top offensive lineman each of the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Nick also might be carving himself a niche as the most versatile Irish offensive lineman on the roster.

Last year the younger Martin worked at both guard and tackle — and also lined up on both the left and right sides of the line. Just for good measure, he did some snapping during spring drills to provide yet another contingency plan.

This August, Martin was seriously challenging Golic for the starting right guard slot, with the possibility of maybe even being able to get into a 3-for-2 rotation at the interior positions with Cave and Golic.

However, when junior No. 2 offensive right tackle Tate Nichols suffered a patella subluxation in his knee, the Irish options at tackle already had become minimal. Sophomore Jordan Prestwood was no longer with the program, and freshman Ronnie Stanley would have to undergo a major learning curve behind Zack Martin at left tackle.

Enter the younger Martin shifting to No. 2 right tackle, while also being the first option at left tackle, in case of an emergency. He knows exactly what his job description is.

“The No. 1 job is to help Notre Dame win, so whatever I can do, that’s my job,” he said. “It’s awesome to do both, go back and forth, just throw me in there. It’s a good feeling."

Although at 6-4, 285 pounds he doesn’t fit the classic prototype of a 6-6 or taller and 310-pound offensive tackle, Martin’s exceptional footwork to complement his game acumen and work ethic had Kelly pegging him as a potential tackle option even prior to his enrollment.

“I played tackle in high school, but I knew I was probably more an interior guy in college,” said Martin, who starred at powerhouse Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis, Ind. “[The shifting is] pretty normal. Last fall my head was definitely swimming because I did the same thing. Coming in I kind of knew that was a possibility, so I was more prepared this year.”

Once the 6-8, 320-pound Nichols returns to full action, perhaps in early September, Martin could downshift back to guard, behind Golic. Both Golic and Martin share an extended family football background. Martin’s father, Keith, played along the line at the University of Kentucky, where his mother was a trainer for the offensive linemen, leading to their union. Oldest brother Josh starred at the University of Indianapolis, and Zack has become one of the top left tackles in college football.

Golic Jr. can appreciate in Martin both the versatility and his will to maintain the family business.

“It speaks volumes about his versatility as an athlete, physically and mentally,” Golic said. “We know Nick has all the tools athletically to be a great player at either position … he’s earned that spot to be the guy on both sides.

“You can see the way he conducts his business every day. He takes it very seriously. You can tell it means a lot to him just like it means a lot to Zack … You see a lot of Zack in Nick. He’s worked hard and he’s going to see the fruits of that labor very soon.”

The younger Martin had originally committed to his father’s alma mater, Kentucky, before he was given the offer to join brother Zack at Notre Dame. It was too great an opportunity to bypass, but making the call to the Kentucky staff headed by Joker Phillips was not easy. However, Keith Martin made sure it was going to be done correctly.

“I had to man up and make the call and be respectful, and it ended on good terms,” Martin said. “It was [my] upbringing. No way I could have gotten away with not making that call.”

At Notre Dame, Zack has invested heavily into nurturing his younger brother’s growth, and it’s possible both could be in the lineup at the same time this year along the line.

“He’s probably my biggest coach out there,” said Nick Martin. “He’ll pull me aside and he’ll rip on me … but I know he wants the best for me. We’ll watch film together and he’ll help me out. He’s a great player, so I listen anytime he talks.”

Both Martins also partook in another activity together this summer. They had their long locks closely cropped, just as Trevor Robinson did last year.

“There are a very select guys who can pull off the long hair,” Golic noted. “We [offensive linemen] are not in that group.”

Call it a familial bond.

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