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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 10 2012

Swapping sides: Academics part of the reason why cornerback made the switch from UNI to rival Bison


Andre Martin walked into the Bison Sports Arena last week with a gray North Dakota State cap and a green Bison T-shirt. It was typical of what many football players wear to work.

Only in this case, the colors took an unexpected change last month for the senior football player. He traded the purple and white of Northern Iowa for the green and yellow, but the reason had nothing to do with school colors.

It had everything to do with academics, he said.

Martin obtained his bachelor of arts degree in gerontology at UNI this spring, but the school did not have the master’s program that he was looking for. NDSU did.

So Martin took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer from one Division I school to another and be immediately eligible if they have their undergraduate degree.

The twist in the switch, of course, is NDSU and UNI are fast becoming heated Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals and Martin is considered one of the better defensive backs in the league.

“I have nothing bad to say about UNI,” Martin said. “It is my alma mater. I did graduate from there and I learned a lot there.”

He said the reception he’s gotten from his new teammates exceeded his expectations. Martin intercepted a pass against NDSU two years ago. He had nine tackles at the Fargodome three years ago as a freshman, when the teams got into a sideline scuffle.

“I don’t want to seem like I’m over-exaggerating, but they were extremely welcoming,” he said. “I got that vibe from the entire Fargo-Moorhead city itself. These people genuinely care about you.”

Martin said there is no bitterness from his former teammates or coaches, saying “It’s all love. It’s all love from the coaches.”

Martin said he told head coach Mark Farley after last season that he was looking for a graduate program.

“He understood I always put academics first,” Martin said.

So did his former teammates, he said. “A lot of my close friends understood the situation,” he said.

He finished spring football in April as a starting cornerback along with Varmah Sonie, a friend who he said “is like a brother to me.”

But he made his decision to transfer to NDSU not long after that. Martin said he applied at several schools, but it certainly didn’t hurt NDSU’s case that defensive coordinator Chris Klieman formerly coached Martin for three years at Northern Iowa.

“It was sad when he left, he truly is a good guy and truly cared about his athletes,” Martin said. “So I felt like this was an opportunity to get back and reunite with him. I felt like I had my best season with him and got better, so why not give it a shot?”

Martin had 77 tackles and five interceptions as a sophomore safety. He was moved to cornerback for his junior season, but a lower back injury caused him to miss a good chunk of fall camp.

“It was the worst time to get hurt,” he said. “It was a test of my faith, but I wouldn’t take any of it back because I learned a lot.”

He had just 17 tackles in a backup role last season.

The move to Fargo is more than just him. His wife, Nadia Martin, has a master’s degree in public policy and is working in the healthcare industry in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The two met when Martin, from St. Louis, was on a campus visit to Missouri State. Nadia Martin got her undergraduate degree from MSU.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better on how first class people are around here,” Andre Martin said. “When people from UNI ask me about it, I say I honestly can see how they won a national championship last year because more than anything, they do things the right way.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia