WATCH: Tommy Martin, Sept. 18
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Kickers typically thrive on repetition, doing the same thing and repeating the same motion, over and over again, until swinging a leg through a ball is as natural is walking down a sidewalk.
Florida State’s Tommy Martin and Parker Grothaus are no different. The two walk-on specialists, redshirt sophomores who were thrust into action against ULM and Virginia due to a suspension to senior Logan Tyler, both insist that their attitudes and practice habits are the same as they ever were.
That may be true. But after ascending to starting jobs the last two weeks – and, even better, ensuring that the Seminoles’ special teams didn’t miss a beat – it’s obvious that things for Martin and Grothaus have changed.
Grothaus knew that for sure when his best friend from back home in Indian Lake, Ohio, sent him a photo of himself, on live TV, in a Florida State uniform.
“I never thought I’d be here,” Grothaus said. “No one really gets to do that where I’m from – a small high school in a small town.
“So (it’s) just a really cool, good experience.”
Truth be told, not many would ever have guessed that Grothaus or Martin would be in this position.
Although walk-on kickers and punters are used more often in college football than their counterparts on offense and defense, Grothaus and Martin still entered the 2019 campaign with two big road blocks standing between them and the field: Tyler and fellow senior Ricky Aguayo.
Those two assumed their roles in 2016 and have been mainstays in the FSU lineup ever since – Aguayo kicking field goals, and Tyler handling punts, kickoffs and field-goal holds.
They entered the season having appeared in 38 consecutive games, and, barring something unexpected, were virtual locks to start at least 12 more this year.
Then, on Sept. 7, something unexpected happened. Minutes prior to the Seminoles’ home game against ULM, FSU announced that Tyler had been suspended for a violation of team rules.
Two days later, head coach Willie Taggart revealed that Tyler’s suspension was indefinite.
Suddenly, just a game into the season, the Seminoles had question marks in places they thought would be secure.
Fortunately for FSU, Grothaus and Martin were ready to answer.
“Over the past two years, I was in a backup role,” said Martin, a native of Chesapeake, Va. “So I just came out and I just tried to prepare like I was the starter, just in case my number was called.”
“I was always preparing for this moment,” Grothaus added. “A lot of hard work in the offseason. So when the news came out, I was ready.”
That much was apparent during the Seminoles’ game against ULM, when Martin punted five times for 214 yards (42.8 average), put two punts inside the Warhawks’ 20-yard line and had a 58-yard boot stop at the 1.
Or when Grothaus sent four of his kickoffs for touchbacks, and two others that were returned short of the 20-yard line.
(And, less obviously, thanks to Martin’s holding, which might have helped Aguayo go 6-for-6 on extra points and 1-for-1 on field goals. Ask ULM about the value of a consistent extra-point unit.)
“I’m just proud of those guys taking advantage of those opportunities,” Taggart said. “I think that can’t be overlooked, and I’m always stressing to our players about being ready and being prepared for when that time comes.
“They have been a good example of what we want out of our guys – the next guys step up and don’t flinch and do your job. Those guys have done that.”
WATCH: Parker Grothaus, Sept. 18
They did it again last week at Virginia.
Playing a few hours from his hometown, and with friends and family watching from the stands at UVA’s Scott Stadium, Martin served as FSU’s special teams captain for the pre-game coin toss.
He then totaled 254 yards on six punts, including a 59-yarder that flipped the field, backed the Cavaliers into the shadow of their end zone and, after a defensive stop, helped the Seminoles’ offense to a short field. A few plays later, FSU had scored its first touchdown of the game.
Martin also served as the holder for a 53-yard field goal that tied Aguayo’s career long.
“It was cool,” Martin said. “That stadium was crazy. The atmosphere was cool. Being back at home (near) UVA was also really fun.”
Grothaus, meanwhile, put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone and all but one were downed for touchbacks.
He admitted Wednesday that he was glad to have taken his first in-game kicks at Doak Campbell Stadium, rather than on the road.
But, as he stood back from the ball, readying himself to literally kick off a game in front of nearly 60,000 opposing fans, Grothaus said he didn’t feel any nerves at all.
Only that he was prepared for moment.
“I mean, I might be just too dumb for the moment,” he said with a smile, “but it didn’t really affect me that much.”
Tyler is practicing with the Seminoles, but there’s been no official word regarding his status or when he might return.
When he does, Martin and Grothaus will likely go back to where they were before: on the sidelines, supporting their teammates and preparing for the next time they’re needed.
For now, though, the two are still living what Grothaus described as “a dream come true.”
He said Wednesday that he and a friend with the Morehead State baseball team are the first major college athletes to ever come out of his hometown.
That Grothaus is even at FSU to begin with sounds like something of a tall tale. He began his career at FCS Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, a school with about 11,000 students and a stadium that seats 6,000 people.
As Grothaus tells it, Incarnate Word “fired all their coaches” after the 2017 season and, when they left, so did he.
Grothaus said his path to Florida State was “a long story,” but that he couldn’t be happier to be with the Seminoles.
“I love the atmosphere here,” Grothaus said. “I think the most people I played in front of (at Incarnate Word) was like 5,000. So then I come here and it’s like 80,000. So, huge change.
“I love it, though. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Same goes for Martin, who considered FSU his “dream school” after watching the 2013 Seminoles dominate their opponents on the way to a national championship.
Martin had a full scholarship offer from FCS Mercer, as well as a partial offer from FCS power James Madison, a few hours from home.
But when FSU called and offered Martin a reserved spot as a walk-on, he couldn’t resist.
“I had a couple other offers, but Florida State stood out to me ever since they won the national championship,” Martin said. “So it’s always been a dream to come here.”
Since his arrival two years ago, that dream was contained to the practice fields and time spent walking around town in FSU football gear.
But for the last two games, and potentially several more, both Martin and Grothaus have seized the opportunity to elevate that dream and turn it into something much more.
“When Tommy and I got our numbers called,” Grothaus said, “we were ready, excited and kind of happy we got to do it together.”