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Nickolas Martin’s Toughness, Talent Showcased in Big 12 Championship Game

‘If I gotta do this and go through all this pain inflicted for my guys, I’d do it a million times-plus.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

ARLINGTON– After getting beat by Texas in the Big 12 Championship, linebacker Nickolas Martin sat at the podium answering questions from reporters with a bag of ice pressed against his right cheek the whole time.

Martin led Oklahoma State with 13 tackles in its 49-21 loss to the No. 7 Longhorns on Saturday in Arlington. He also had the Cowboys’ top play of the day, intercepting game MVP Quinn Ewers and returning the pick 27 yards to UT’s three-yard line. The play set up a touchdown that put OSU within 14 in the second quarter, although that deficit only inflated from there.

“This has happened like five times this year,” Martin said of the face injury. “I don’t know how, but I keep getting hit like on my cheek bone and it swells up. It’s weird.

“It’s war, you know what I’m saying. If I gotta do this and go through all this pain inflicted for my guys, I’d do it a million times-plus.”

What Martin did in the title game was what he’s done all season. He started Saturday with more tackles than anyone in the Big 12 at 120, averaging 10 a game. He also has six sacks and a forced fumble.

Martin’s performance Saturday pushed him to 133 total tackles– one shy of being in the top 10 for most tackles in a season in program history. The last time anyone cracked the top 10 of that list was James Ham in 1985.

Obviously with Martin’s success, Mike Gundy has been asked about his top defensive player nearly every week. And it seems every time Gundy says something about Martin being willing to lay his body on the line to make a tackle and help his team. A swollen cheek and a bag of ice are further proof of Gundy’s words if the stats aren’t enough. As were the words from the man himself, and even his teammates.

“It makes us want to go out there and do our job a little bit harder,” defensive lineman Anthony Goodlow said. “Just watching him go out there playing 100%, it gets us fired up.”

Martin’s toughness seems to be contagious. Defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo said safety Trey Rucker hasn’t missed a single practice rep this season, even while battling an AC sprain. Safety Kendall Daniels and Martin missed only one day of practice because of high ankle sprains.

“We’ve got guys who are just warriors,” Nardo said.

Wherever OSU ends up for its bowl destination, that will most likely be where Martin officially etches his name in history as one of the Cowboys’ greatest tacklers. If he notches his average of 10 tackles, Martin would reach No. 6 on the list.

“He’s one of the toughest, most physical, smartest, dedicated football players I’ve ever been around,” Nardo said. “And he is exactly where he is because of that toughness.”

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