Nikai Martinez Announces College Choice
Apopka high cornerback Nikai Martinez has decided where to continue his football career. See which college he chose
Editor’s Note: Apopka is advancing as Senior Defensive Back, Nikai Martinez wrote the following first-person story to announce where he will play college football.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Martinez helped the Blue Darters advance to the Class 8A state championship game in 2019 and the Class 8A state semi-finals in 2020. Martinez recorded 47 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and parted ways with three passes last fall.
Martinez is a four-star recruit, the No. 29 cornerback and the No. 296 player in the nation in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Its finalists are Florida, South Carolina, and UCF.
To be in this position is a blessing. Not everyone from Apopka has this opportunity to play college football, so I hope this gives the next generation hope and something to believe in.
When I showed up, I was blessed to have my mother, father, and uncle Paul. So many family members and coaches have helped me. I’ve had great little league coaches who saw the potential in me before I saw it. Trainer Eric Green, Trainer Council, Trainer AJ, Trainer AG, Trainer T from Edgewater. All of my coaches have helped me a lot now.
I said I played soccer when I was 3. I played with 3 flags and 5 tackles. I’ve always played high, always played against guys who are older than me. When I first played football, I won’t lie, I didn’t like it. I do not know why. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do at such a young age.
But as soon as I had to tackle and meet people, it clicked. It just sparked out of nowhere. This is what i want to do. I didn’t want to do anything else.
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I thought I could play college between 8th and 9th grades in the summer. I’ve been to a camp in Miami and a USF camp and I’ve done really well. I went against older guys – people who already had offers from Miami and USF – and held out. I was surprised. And that was the first time I played defensive back and I played against these guys who already had a name for themselves.
Then I knew: ‘Okay, it will click.’
The recruiting process has had ups and downs, with various coaching changes and the like. But overall it was a good experience.
The opportunity to visit was very important to me. It opened my eyes and showed the real face of some coaches. Just being able to see coaches face to face and meet them personally helped me to find my way.
I want a college program that is like a family where the coaches are together. I want a great support system that will help me get to the next level and be both a better man and a better player. I want to go somewhere where academics are important, and it shows because the coaches push you to get good grades as much as they push you to get on the field.
I found that.
I am pleased to announce that I will be spending the next three to four years at the University of Central Florida.
It feels good to stay close to home. It’s really shocking to me. Throughout the process, I was determined not to stay home. I wouldn’t stay that close Before, when I said something about UCF, people knew I was joking. Now it happens.
There are many factors. Coach Malzahn and all the coaches who come over there see the chance with what has already happened and expand the playoffs, name, image, likeness – a lot. If I stay, it might motivate even more people to stay. I’m already thinking about the big picture.
Coach Malzahn is an important reason why I go to the UCF. I only thought of Auburn because of him when he was there. He is like that, the coach’s respect for him is on another level. If he gets this job in my hometown, you couldn’t ask for anything better. We already had this relationship. It’s not that he’s just a new coach.
I just want to thank everyone – my family trainers, everyone who looked after me, everyone who recruited me. Even in the worst of times, there were plenty of people who raised me and kept me focused on my goals.
Let’s do this.