Hoover's Gio Martinez is the center of attention

From mental sharpness to physical grit, Gio Martinez has it all covered for the Hoover High football team from his central position in the Tornadoes' offensive line.

Hoover's toughest player and cerebral leader, the senior center will bear numerous responsibilities this season, not the least of which are the example he sets with his hard-nosed play and the role of coach on the field he will play in organizing the offense prior to every snap.

"If I mess up, the whole offense messes up, so it depends on me a lot," Martinez says. "I can't afford to mess up. As a senior leader, I try being a good leader to the freshmen and the sophomores. I want to leave a good reputation for this school. I want to be remembered."

Hoover Coach Andrew Policky has no doubts about Martinez' ability to handle the workload, as he was impressed by Martinez' play and work ethic during his first year coaching the Tornadoes last season, which was also Martinez' first at the varsity level.

"He makes all the line calls and line adjustments and also plays defense for us and plays on some of the special teams," Policky says. "He's one of the kids that's always on the field and he's here every day. Every one of his teammates knows they can count on him."

Martinez will be called on to do a little of everything during the Tornadoes' 2012 campaign, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday against host Blair at Muir High, but his most critical function will be anchoring Hoover's offensive line, a major strength of the team that will be crucial in executing Policky's wing-T offense.

After taking up tackle football when entering Hoover's program as a freshman, Martinez quickly fell in love with the intense physicality of the game and it continues to show in every play he makes, Policky says.

"He's one of those offensive linemen who plays with a real nasty streak," Policky says. "Some kids tend to be a little bit timid, but he doesn't have any of that in him. He plays hard on every play, he's not one of those kids who takes any plays off."

Indeed, Martinez has no tolerance for timidity among his teammates and will be the first to voice his discontent if a player isn't putting in 100%.

"One thing I like about football, I like to go hard," Martinez says. "If my teammates don't feel like going hard, I get on their case to go harder and work their best. Football is about being physical and if you don't want to be physical, it's not the sport to play."

It's an influence well taken by his peers, though, as Hoover defensive back Rafael Martinez can attest to.

"We take his intensity and we try to build on that on offense," Rafael Martinez says. "We take his intensity and try to motivate ourselves to be as intense as him."

But for Gio Martinez, football isn't all hard hits and chest beating. His center position requires a high football IQ and alertness to the situation at hand at all times to successfully read defenses and make the right adjustments to set his teammates up for success. He says the sport has also taught him some useful life lessons and made him a better student.

"I like the hitting, but actually what I like about football is that it's made me more mature and more responsible," Gio Martinez says. "I've pushed myself to get better in school because I have to have good grades in order to play. It's a challenge for me and I like to be challenged."

Friday's opener presents a big opportunity for Gio Martinez and his returning teammates, as for all their work over the last season and offseason, they're yet to taste their first win. Turning around a 0-10 campaign may seem daunting, but the Tornadoes could be well-served once again taking a cue from their man in the middle.

"Our football team has talent, we just need to work as a team," Martinez says. "We need to talk to each other, we don't need to yell at each other, we just need to talk and work as a team."

gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

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