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Packers get their inside linebacker in fourth round

Tackling machine Blake Martinez of Stanford might have been destined for Green Bay


GREEN BAY – Marc Martinez came prepared for this weekend's NFL Draft, buying hats and shirts for every possible team that might select his son, Blake.

His wife, Carrisa, knew better.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, Carrisa forecasted that Blake, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound inside linebacker, would end up with the Packers.

That prophecy was realized on Saturday when Green Bay selected the Stanford senior with the first of the team's two compensatory fourth-round selections (131st overall).

"She was always telling me throughout this whole process, 'I believe you're going to end up with the Packers,'" Martinez said.

"Obviously, it was just a lucky guess type of thing, but it's just funny. My mom said right after, 'Moms are always right.'"

A two-year starter, Martinez developed into a tackling machine during his junior and senior seasons at Stanford. His 141 tackles (75 solo) in 2015 led the entire Pac-12 Conference and nearly tripled the production of the next Cardinal defender, Aziz Shittu (57).

Following the graduation of A.J. Tarpley, Martinez assumed the coverage responsibilities in the Stanford defense in nickel and dime situations.

Martinez believes he improved immensely in the coverage aspect of the game, following tight ends and tracking running backs out of the backfield.

He finished his career with 257 tackles, six sacks and five interceptions in 51 career games at Stanford. He was honored as a third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team Pac-12.

Packers director of football operations, Eliot Wolf, believes it's a role Martinez could be capable of handling in the NFL based on his 4.71-second time at the 40-yard dash at February's scouting combine, which ranked 11th among all linebackers.

Martinez posted top-five marks at the position in the three-cone drill (6.98 seconds), short shuttle (4.20 seconds) and bench press with 22 reps of 225 pounds.

"I kind of like everything about him," Wolf said. "He's athletic. He's productive. He played big-time football at Stanford. He can cover, blitz. Can sift over the top and make tackles over the outside. I thought he was a pretty versatile guy."

Going into the draft, the Packers appeared to be in the market for another inside linebacker with Clay Matthews moving back outside on a regular basis. Martinez will join returning inside contributors Jake Ryan, Sam Barrington and Joe Thomas.

His selection marked the second consecutive year the Packers have used a fourth-round pick on the position. Ryan arrived in the fourth round from Michigan in 2015. Another fourth-rounder, Carl Bradford (2014), has also since relocated to the position.

Martinez talked with the Packers at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, but didn't know how serious they were in acquiring his services until his phone rang on Saturday.

The Packers wasted no time on Saturday addressing inside linebacker, drafting Stanford's Blake Martinez with the first of two fourth-round compensatory draft picks, No. 131 overall. Photos by AP and

"I feel like my skill set ranges all over from my instincts, my ability to tackle, my ability to cover," Martinez said. "Just being one or two steps in front of blockers on every single play to make those plays that much quicker than other guys."

A native of Tucson, Ariz., Martinez spent his childhood picking up nails with a small magnet on his father's construction sites. He'd make a penny a nail if he nabbed them all, with his biggest payday coming in around $10.

The family had season tickets for seven years to University of Arizona football games where his mom is an alumna. He hoped to follow her path, but wasn't disenchanted about his light recruitment. 

Instead, he went to Stanford and became an intriguing draft prospect. A student of the game, Martinez attributed his productivity on the field to a meticulous approach to film study and note-taking, estimating he had roughly 12 notebooks filled with tidbits on his college competition.

Now, he hopes to bring that same mentality to Green Bay. Appropriately, he took an Instagram photo with the hat and shirt his father bought him beforehand.

"Right now, I'm just looking forward to going in there, learning the playbook and learning about Packer history – doing whatever they need me to do," Martinez said. "If the starting role comes up and I'm able to earn my spot, I'm going to take that to full advantage and make sure I can do the best job I can do."


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