Lynn Martin approached Saks head coach Jonathan Miller last year with what he called “a spur-of-the-moment thought.”
Martin, who has carried the first-down chains at Saks football games for 53 years, wanted to know how far the Wildcats would have to advance to still be playing come November 2020.
After getting his answer, Martin made a request.
“I realized I was going to be 80 on Nov. 4 this year,” Martin said. “So I asked Coach, I said, ‘How far we got to go to get into November?’ And he said, ‘First week of the playoffs.’ I said, ‘Well, get in the playoffs, so I can carry the chains after I’m 80.’”
After Saks opened Class 3A, Region 5 play with three straight losses against what Martin called a “Murderers’ Row” of Piedmont, Wellborn and Ohatchee, his goal appeared in jeopardy. The Wildcats rallied to win their final five regular-season games, however. After they beat East Lawrence on the road in the first round of the playoffs, Martin’s big night arrived.
He carried the chains at age 80, during Saks’ second-round win over J.B. Pennington at Jack Stewart Field last Friday.
Martin posted a message on his personal Facebook account afterward, and the outpouring of support was massive. As of Thursday afternoon, it had received 186 comments and had been shared 23 times.
As for Martin, he doesn’t realize what all the fuss is about.
“It seems to me a big to-do about nothing, really,” Martin said. “All I’ve done is just do what I like to do for as long as the Lord has allowed me.”
Martin, who said he grew up on Saks Road, about a block from the school, has seen plenty since first carrying the chains on the sideline in 1967, some of which he joked about not being able to share.
“I don’t need to tell the interesting stories,” Martin said with a laugh. “Might get somebody in trouble.”
While he said no specific games stand out, Martin still remembers big plays from some big-time players, none more so than those made by running back Boyce Callahan, who starred at Saks in 1968 and 1969 before going on to have a storied career at Jacksonville State.
“He was just an amazing player,” Martin said. “Pound-for-pound probably the best player I’ve ever seen, because he was not a big guy. He was about 160 pounds and still holds records at Jax State.
“We’ve had a lot of really good players, but he just did some amazing things, and I can still see in my mind one or two of those plays that looked to me to be impossible.”
It wasn’t always a sure thing that Martin would reach this point. He said he dealt with pain in his leg and hip in 2019, and that it took him four months to recover after the season ended.
He said he’s felt better this year, however. He’s not sure if he’ll return for another go-around next season, but his 2020 mission has been accomplished.
“If the Lord blesses me with good health come the next football season, then I’ll probably keep on. If I’m having some difficulties, I’ll probably hang it up,” Martin said. “It just seemed like a good goal last year, and it was kind of neat to get there.”
Whether Martin returns to the sideline next year, Miller says he’s already synonymous with Saks.
“When I think of the Saks community, Saks High School, the first thing that comes to mind is Lynn Martin, and it always will be,” Miller said. “He’s just such a fixture here.”
Martin, who said he’s missed very few games over the years, plans to attend Saks’ quarterfinal matchup at Piedmont on Friday.
Despite being impressed with how much Saks has improved this season, Martin said that it’ll be a chore to knock off the defending state champions. He’s still got faith in his Wildcats, however.
“I always think we’re going to win. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Martin said. “Sometimes there’s no basis for that. I just believe in the kids.”