All-Pro linebacker Rod Martin joins City Section Hall of Fame
Rod Martin moved from West Virginia to Los Angeles when he was 12 in 1968. His father was a coal miner. An older brother once scored 57 points in a basketball game, so basketball was his favorite sport. By his junior year at Hamilton High, the football coach, Jack Epstein, had convinced Martin to try football.
“They teased me because I didn’t know how to put my uniform on,” Martin said. “I said, ‘OK, wait until I get on the field and you see me play.’”
Martin became a standout linebacker for the Yankees, graduating in 1972. After earning all-conference honors at USC, he was a 12th-round draft pick of the Raiders in 1977 and spent 12 years in the NFL, twice making All-Pro.
It was announced Tuesday that Martin is one of 20 City Section graduates selected to be inducted into the City Section Hall of Fame.
“Man, they were good days,” Martin recalled. “It was diversity. Hamilton was predominantly Jewish. We all mingled together. If you were a decent, good person, we’d all get together and have a great time.”
Future NFL quarterback Warren Moon was a year behind at Hamilton.
“My father saw me play football one time. Then he passed at 57,” Martin said. “I became the man of the house. I was trying to step up and be the man my sisters could look up to and keep them on the right path.”
Martin has more than lived up to expectations. He had one of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history, coming up with three interceptions in Super Bowl XV against Ron Jaworski and the Philadelphia Eagles. But more importantly, he was determined to have a passion for being successful on and off the field.
“Have the love for the game,” he said. “That’s pushed me. Had to be good in school. It all worked out.”
Among the other inductees for the class of 2021 is Dwayne Polee, the former Manual Arts basketball standout who scored 43 points in the 1981 City Section championship game before 14,136 at the Sports Arena. He made 17 of 20 shots in an 82-69 win over Crenshaw.
“I think everything I shot went in,” he said. “The basket was like a hula hoop.”
Former Fairfax basketball standout Chris Mills was selected. Andy Reid, the coach of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and a Marshall grad, also made the Hall of Fame. So did former NFL receiver Steve Smith, a University grad. Jim Cheffers, the former City Section commissioner, and Bob Collins, a former LAUSD principal and administrator, will be honored.
Lori Chandler, a former El Camino Real athlete and coach, was also selected. She won City titles coaching teams in tennis, softball and basketball, and is a top basketball official. “It’s quite humbling,” she said.
Ramona Shelburne, who was an outstanding softball player at El Camino Real and has distinguished herself as a journalist for ESPN, was voted in as a contributor. Former Narbonne basketball standout Lisa Willis and former Palisades volleyball standout Colleen Boyd Turner were also selected, along with former Palisades boys’ volleyball standout Steve Salmons.
Chet Lemon, a 1972 Fremont grad who played for Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, will be honored. He was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. Another baseball honoree is San Pedro grad Garry Maddox.
Basketball official Booker Turner, a Roosevelt grad, will be inducted. Former cross-country standout Roman Gomez from Belmont and former track coach Scott King from Birmingham were selected, along with former Birmingham athletic director Lou Ramirez and former El Camino Real softball coach Neils Ludlow.
A lifetime achievement award will be bestowed on 1940 Manual Arts graduate Rachel Robinson, wife of Jackie Robinson.
There are nearly two dozen others among a legacy group that will be honored, including Paul Blair in baseball, a 1961 Manual Arts grad who starred for the Baltimore Orioles.
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