Beyond The Trophy: Michael Martin, University of Illinois

Heather Coit/The News-Gazette Michael Martin University of Illinois Football Media Day at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Sunday, August 11, 2013.

Name: Michael Martin

College: University of Illinois

Height, weight, class, position: 6-4, 225 pounds, junior, long snapper

High School: Centennial HS Champaign, Ill.

About Michael Martin: A native of Champaign who stayed in his hometown to play college football, Martin is in his full season as the Illini long snapper after handling the duties for all 13 games in 2014. Martin is the Illinois Chapter Vice President and alongside Chapter President Joe Spencer help put together a successful 2015 Lift For Life where the Illini nearly doubled their fundraising efforts. This is the second year the Illini Chapter is holding a Touchdown Pledge Drive for the home game against Middle Tennessee State. Martin is also a legacy at Illinois as both his parents, Gregory and Karen, swam at Illinois. A mechanical engineering major, Martin was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in 2014.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

MARTIN: My favorite part about the game day experience is running out of the tunnel before the game. I always run out, find my parents in the stands, and acknowledge them by pointing at them.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

MARTIN: I got involved with Uplifting Athletes because our chapter was started by Zak Pederson, the long snapper when I was a freshman. I appreciated the motivation of the organization and wanted to get involved for the good it did. The experience has made me more aware of the ability to use the platform of college football for the good of others.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

MARTIN: My most memorable experience as a college football player was upsetting Minnesota for Homecoming in 2014. Wearing the Gray Ghost uniforms for the first time and having the team come together for a hard fought win is something I will remember forever.

What is your chosen major, and what if anything have you used from that major as a contribution to your Uplifting Athletes Chapter?

MARTIN: I currently am a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering. To be honest, what I learn in Mechanical Engineering and what I contribute in Uplifting Athletes are significantly different.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

MARTIN: I don’t watch anyone in particular, but I always pay close attention to the operation of the punts and field goals of other teams.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

MARTIN: My favorite NFL player was Patrick Mannelly, former long snapper of the Chicago Bears. He was the most tenured Bear in the franchise’s history, but barely anybody knew who he was or what he did because of how well he did it.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

MARTIN: Washington’s Husky Stadium was a real treat to play in. The facilities and atmosphere were great.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

MARTIN: After football, I want to have a job that contributes to the well being of others, whether directly or indirectly. Ultimately, I just want to be happy.

Former Illini Player Carter Provides Inspiration

With over 30 million people in the US currently suffering from a rare disease, there are many inspiring stories about people fighting back and making an impact. Andrew Carter, a former four-star offensive line prospect at University of Illinois, and his teammates refused to sit back after he was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor growing on the nerve between the inner-ear and brain.

The Illinois Chapter was created in honor of Carter. This summer, the team held their 1st Annual Lift For Life which raised almost $4,000 for acoustic neuroma research. Not only did the team raise money and awareness, Carter also met others with acoustic neuroma and provide them with hope.

To learn more about Carter’s inspiring story and the impact the Illinois Chapter has made in the rare disease community in a short period of time, watch this video produced by the Illini. Uplifting Athletes continues to be amazed by the great strides current college football players make in raising both money and awareness for rare disease research. Together…We Are…Stronger!

Beyond the Trophy – Week 3

Each week we will feature a college football player who is either a member or an officer in a Uplifting Athletes Chapter for our Beyond the Trophy series.


Name: Zachary Pedersen

College: University of Illinois 

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 230 pounds, senior, long snapper

High School: Joliet Catholic Academy, Joliet, Illinois


About Zak Pedersen: A former walk-on for the Fighting Illini, Pedersen is the President of the Uplifting Athletes Chapter in Champaign. A fifth-year senior, Zak handled all the long-snapping duties for each of the 13 games the last two seasons. He is credited with playing a key role in each kicker having career years in 2010. He was a long snapper on guard on the Joliet Catholic team that won the 2007 IHSA 6A state title.


As a player, what is your favorite part of game day you get to experience at your home stadium?

Pedersen: My favorite part of game day at Memorial Stadium is when, after a win, we celebrate with the band in the stands. Our band is great, and so supportive, that it’s awesome to go share what we did on the field with them. They get us pumped up and get the crowd behind us, and that’s such an important part of having the home field advantage. It’s our way of saying thanks.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

Pedersen: Bowl games are always fun and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play in two and win two (Texas Bowl ’10 and Kraft Fight Hunger ’11), but my most memorable experience as a college football player was playing at Wrigley field. Staying downtown Chicago, having game day there and everyone in the city buzzing about our game was awesome. What made it even more memorable, for me, aside from Mikel’s amazing day running the ball was beating our rival Northwestern. Very sweet.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what if anything has this experience done for you?

Pedersen: I got involved with Uplifting Athltes through my friend Obi Egekeze. He started a chapter at Maryland and is working on his MBA here in Champaign, and still kicking trying to get a chance at the next level. He came to me and told me what Uplifting Athletes was all about and from the jump I was in. I love everything about it. We have a great cause in Acoustic Neuroma, which we were inspired to choose as our rare disease after my friend and former team mate Andrew Carter was diagnosed with it in 2011 after our bowl game. It’s a great thing, helping to give a voice to people who, for the most part, don’t have one.

Facebook, Twitter or neither and why?

Pedersen: I have both but enjoy Twitter much more simply because of the news updates that are on there. It serves as my morning paper.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play and what makes them so difficult?

Pedersen: There are so many tough teams in the B1G that it’s hard to pick just one. Obviously rivalry games mean a lot to us, so Northwestern and Ohio State are always high points on our schedule. We play Indiana and Purdue, too, which are hard fought games as well, but Michigan is my favorite team to play, because I grew up watching the Maize and Blue on Saturday mornings in the fall.

What is your chosen major, and what if anything have you used from that major as a contribution to your Uplifting Athletes Chapter?

Pedersen: As an undergraduate I majored in political science and I believe that experience helped me a lot with my writing. Behind the scenes of our events, there’s a lot of coordination and communication that transpires between people, and it’s critical to not only be well spoken, but to be concise enough to get the point across and maintain interest when you’re trying to talk to people about what you’re doing.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

Pedersen: There are many players in college football I enjoy watching. You’ve got the Matt Barkley’s and Kirk Cousins’ of the world that work so calmly under all the pressure, and that is very admirable to me. Being a long snapper, however, I love watching snappers; the punt is my favorite play in football. I’m close friends with Jesse Schmidt from Purdue so I like watching him, and one of my best friends from high school, Nick Clancy, plays at Boston College, so I like seeing them do well also.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Pedersen: Being a big Bears fan, and a long snapper, my favorite player is Patrick Mannely. He’s the model of consistency going on his 15th year snapping in the NFL as well as being a team captain, and to top it off he’s always perfect; he inspires me to be the best I can be everyday, and perfect my craft.

What was or is the inspiration for the Rare Disease your Uplifting Athletes Chapter is raising money for to be part of the fight?

Pedersen: As I mentioned before my good friend Andrew Carter lost his opportunity to play football because of Acoustic Neuroma, so naturally it was a perfect motivation for us to pick that rare disease. It’s cool too because many of the guys on the team want to actively be to be a part of what we do because they know Andrew’s story very well.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

Pedersen: Penn State and Ohio State both have awesome fan bases and that makes it great to go play in hostile environments like those, but playing at Michigan Stadium is awesome, and when we win there it’s even better. It’s so rich in tradition and history that playing there gives you the chills.