'I'm pretty sure this will be my last game. I wanted to play because of the competition and for the sake of the kids.' : Chris Martz, Shrine All-Star gridder : Stars to Shine for Shrine Hospital

Times Staff Writer

For many players, the Shrine All-Star Football Classic is their last high school football game.

For Chris Martz, a wide receiver and defensive back from Los Altos High in Hacienda Heights, it will be his last football game--period.

While most of the players in the game will be going on to college football careers, 18-year-old Martz is focusing on volleyball.

The 6-4, 185-pound blond has already signed a national letter of intent to attend USC on a volleyball scholarship.

So why will Martz be in uniform at 7 p.m. Saturday at East Los Angeles College Stadium?

His mother, Irma, says "he's playing mainly because it's for charity and helps children."

Martz said the tradition of the Shrine Game, which features the top prep football players in Southern California, also has something to do with him wanting to play.

"I'm pretty sure this will be my last game," Martz said. "I wanted to play because of the competition and for the sake of the kids."

Martz said he is a little surprised to be on the squad; he was the only player from the talent-rich Sierra League selected. He was nominated by his coach at Los Altos, Dwayne DeSpain, a member of the selection committee.

However, Martz certainly has the statistics to support his selection.

As a defensive back, he intercepted nine passes, recovered six fumbles and was one of the leading tacklers for Los Altos. At wide receiver, he caught 30 passes for 708 yards--a 23.3-yard average--and scored seven touchdowns.

That was enough to earn Martz a spot on the All-CIF Division II second team and the Times All-San Gabriel Valley first team.

He also was recruited by many NCAA Division I schools, including Washington and UC Berkeley in the Pac 10 Conference.

Nonetheless, it was not too difficult for Martz to decide between the two sports for college.

"It's a little hard giving up football," Martz said. "But I just wanted to play one sport in college. My main reason for going to school is to get an education and I like volleyball a little better than football.

"I got a lot of letters (from college football teams) but I think a lot of people knew I was a better volleyball player, so they didn't recruit me."

Martz has found rapid success in volleyball.

It was less than four years ago that Martz was introduced to the sport by Los Altos Coach Dana Brega. He was an almost instant success, earning a position on the varsity as a freshman.

"My coach is real good and he was the one who taught me the fundamentals," Martz said. "When I was a freshman, he would stick me in games with the varsity guys and it wasn't that long before I was playing with them.

"It's not that hard a game to learn. It's more mental (than physical). It took me about a year to get my basics down and then you just try to improve from there."

The presence of Martz, an outstanding blocker and setter, was one of the biggest reasons why Los Altos finished second in the CIF 3-A Division the last two years. Martz was named to the All-CIF 3-A first team last season.

Martz was recruited by most of the top volleyball teams in the nation, including UCLA and national champion Pepperdine, before deciding to play for the Trojans, who finished second last year.

"I wanted to go to Pepperdine originally but they didn't have enough money left in their program to give me a scholarship," he said. "But I'm happy with USC.

"One of my goals is to win an NCAA title at least once and they (USC) should have a pretty good team next year."

Martz admits he has not played much football since the prep season ended last December.

He has been playing a lot of volleyball, though.

After a strong performance in June, Martz was selected to the U.S. Junior Olympic team. The team played in a tournament in Berkeley recently and will be playing against international competition at the Pac-Rim Tournament starting Aug. 13 in Hawaii.

Martz has also kept busy this summer by playing for a club team in Pacific Palisades that has many of the top players in Southern California.

But he doesn't mind taking time off from volleyball to play football one last time, especially since it's the Shrine Game.

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